Young and Disabled a Double Whammy

Ben Thompson spent his early 20s in a nursing home after an assault outside his home in Cranbourne left him with a brain injury, meaning he required constant care.

His sister Hannah said the nursing home staff were ”fantastic” but it was hard for Ben to engage with the residents, most of whom were 60 years his senior.

”He basically just sat in his room,” she said. ”He just wasn’t interested in the activities on offer because they were set up for older people, not someone in their 20s. He kept to himself.”

Mr Thompson, now 28, is now in supported accommodation for the disabled in Noble Park, where he shares a home with eight other residents.

”He’s much happier there,” Ms Thompson said. ”He has much more independence and the people he lives with are much closer to his age.”

But age-appropriate accommodation is in short supply, and more than 7500 young Australians with disabilities live in nursing homes.

They were identified in the Productivity Commission’s 2011 inquiry into disability care as one of the most disadvantaged groups.

While they will receive funding under the national disability insurance scheme, DisabilityCare Australia, the peak group representing them has raised concerns about whether suitable accommodation will be available when the scheme starts in 2018-19.

Youngcare general manager, strategy and research, Anna Cox believes DisabilityCare Australia will solve only one part of the problem.

”It will put a funding package in everyone’s hands that is sufficient to get them out of aged care and to find themselves more appropriate accommodation,” she said.

”It won’t solve the problem of there being buildings which have the appropriate design features for people to be able to live there. Worst case scenario, there’s a cheque in everyone’s hand, off they go, where do they go? They’ll be left in aged care.”

Youngcare estimates about one-third of younger people in aged care might be able to return to live with their families with the support of funding from DisabilityCare Australia, leaving 5000 needing age-appropriate accommodation, which could cost up to $1 billion.

A combination of government funding, social investment and philanthropy could be used towards the buildings, which would be a mix of share homes, family homes and apartments.

”Group homes, which is what the disability sector has done for years, have been a total and utter disaster,” she said.

The federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has already committed $60 million over three years to build 150 new supported accommodation places for people with disability.

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Housing, Accommodation, Tenancy

Rachel Browne

The Age

Date published:
Sun 23rd Jun, 2013