Elderly left behind in battle for disability care

Posted on 03 Oct 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia


Older Australians with disability are falling through the cracks when it comes to receiving the care and support they need, according to disability advocates.

The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) have released a joint discussion paper they said highlights the systemic inequality facing people with disability aged over 65.

The Supports for Older People with Disability paper reveals that people who turned 65 before the rollout of the NDIS and those who acquired a disability after the age of 65 are ineligible for the scheme.

To remain in their own homes, they must instead rely on home care packages which are capped at $59,593 and designed to support basic age-related needs.

The peak advocacy bodies called for an end to alleged discrimination against older people with disability and for the Australian government to urgently address what they believe is “systemic inequity.”

The release of the discussion paper comes as the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability handed down its final report after a four-and-a-half-year inquiry.

The 12-volume report contained 222 recommendations ranging from phasing out segregated education for disabled students to establishing a federal government portfolio for disability and creating a disability rights act.

“We need to fix the inequities in Australia’s disability support system once and for all.”
AFDO CEO Ross Joyce.

A 2018 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that more than 1.9 million older people aged 65 and over reported having a disability.

The CEO of the not-for-profit community-based advocacy and education service Aged and Disability Australia (ADA), Geoff Rowe, said his organisation frequently received calls from older people with disability who were falling through the cracks.

“Without access to the appropriate levels of at-home support, they are often forced prematurely into residential aged care,” said Mr Rowe.

“It’s a loss for the older person and it often results in a more expensive option for us as taxpayers.

“As the peak advocacy group for older people, we think that is unacceptable.”

Mr Rowe said while aged care reforms are underway, there are fundamental gaps and differences between the disability and aged care sectors that need urgent attention.

“That’s why we are calling for a national, solutions-focused discussion that includes the voices of older people, and we look forward to engaging with the government and other stakeholders on the matter.”

AFDO CEO Ross Joyce accused Australia of having an ageist approach to disability policy with a disproportionate focus on the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“Our members frequently tell us how difficult it is for the older people with disability they represent to access the supports they need,” said Mr Joyce.

“There has been a disproportionate focus on the NDIS over the past 10 years, which has resulted in many older people with disability continuing to fail to receive necessary supports.

“We need to fix the inequities in Australia’s disability support system once and for all.”

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