Morrison government defends plan to get young people out of aged care


Asked to respond to the royal commission’s criticism, Mr Robert told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, “I disagree with them [the royal commission]. I believe the government’s plan is enough. I’m absolutely committed to delivering it. And the numbers speak for themselves.”

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As of June 2019, there were 5606 people under 65 living in residential aged care, the majority of whom have a significant disability.

Mr Robert said the number of younger people living in aged care barely shifted between 2007 and 2017, but there had been an 11 per cent drop over the past two years.

“The government’s actually acting. The numbers are clear, numbers don’t lie,” he said.

Mr Robert also pointed to a 22 per cent drop in the number of people entering nursing homes, when the June 2017 quarter (536 people) was compared to the June 2019 quarter (416 people).

The royal commission similarly noted a “slight reduction” in the number of people in nursing homes in recent quarters, but said, “this trend preceded the release of the [government’s] action plan”.

The government’s plan commits to halving the number of people under 65 entering residential aged care by 2025, as well as “supporting” those in nursing homes under 45 to find alternative housing by 2022 and those under 65 to find alternative housing by 2025.

The royal commission said the federal government should commit to much stronger targets: no younger people entering residential aged care by 2022 and no younger people living in nursing homes by 2025, subject to “limited exceptions”.

Mr Robert said he would take “every opportunity I can to advance and speed up our targets”. But he stopped short of adopting the royal commission’s advice. “We start from what is realistic, what’s achievable,” he said.

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Mr Robert, who is also the minister for government services, said improving the situation required building specialist accommodation and providing services to support people to live independently.

“We get this. We’re absolutely committed to doing it. Everyone would love to see every single younger person out of aged care tomorrow,” he said.

“It will take time. We’ve got to build the capacity and the capability. If this was something that could have been done easily, it would have been done prior.”

The royal commission has heard multiple stories of young people in nursing homes, who spoke of social isolation, neglect and a “sense of hopelessness”. This includes Neale Radley, who was 48 when he had a diving accident that left him a quadriplegic. He ended up in a nursing home, because of the lack of other options.

“Being in a place where people are constantly dying isn’t the right place for young people … I feel like a prisoner,” he told the commission in September.

Being in a place where people are constantly dying isn’t the right place for young people … I feel like a prisoner.

48-year-old Neale Radley

Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance chief executive Bronwyn Morkham said the Morrison government needed to act immediately and sign up to more ambitious targets.

“None of this is impossible,” she said. “We really have no excuse any longer.”

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