Younger people are stuck living “a prison sentence” in nursing homes because the federal and state governments have failed to adequately recognise their needs, a royal commission has been told.
The federal government’s plan to reduce the number of younger people entering residential aged care may actually make it more likely that they end up there, the aged care royal commission was told on Monday.
Senior counsel assisting the commission Peter Rozen QC said residential aged care is meant to be a last resort for younger people.
Mr Rozen said the factors driving younger people under 65 years old into aged care are many and longstanding.
He said the situation was largely attributable to a policy environment that has failed to adequately recognise the wishes and needs of younger Australians requiring care.
“There is nothing inevitable about younger people ending up in residential aged care facilities,” Mr Rozen told a Melbourne hearing.
“It happens as a result of deliberate policy decisions that have been made by the commonwealth, state and territory governments over many years.”
Mr Rozen said the hearing will examine policy settings in both state and federal governments.
“We will demonstrate that nonsensical funding arrangements have perpetuated younger people entering into and remaining in aged care,” he said.
“Recent developments may well have made it more likely that younger people will enter aged care.”
The inquiry will examine whether a federal government action plan announced in March can succeed in reducing the number of younger people living in aged care facilities.
“We plan to demonstrate that the action plan will not do enough, soon enough, to resolve this issue,” Mr Rozen said.
He said part of the reason for that is the lack of investment in suitable alternative accommodation, adding the government was placing its faith in market solutions.
One man will tell the inquiry the seven years he spent in aged care was “a prison sentence”.
“This is a group of largely unseen and ‘lost’ Australians,” Mr Rozen said.
“They are hidden. They deserve better.
“For too long, aged care services have been seen as the last resort option, the ‘safety net’ if you will, when all else fails.
“We can no longer be satisfied with the aged care sector acting as a band aid for the failings of other systems.”
About 6000 people aged under 65 are living in residential aged care facilities in Australia.