Last week, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Royal Commission) held its Melbourne hearing from 9-11 and 13 September.

It inquired into younger people in residential aged care, with a focus on impact, drivers and appropriateness of allocation policy as well as how to best support young people wishing to leave residential aged care. Here, we summarise the activities of each day.

Day 1 – Monday 9 September

Senior Counsel Assisting, Peter Rozen QC outlined that the focus of the Melbourne hearings was to examine the lived experience of young Australians either living in, or at risk of moving into, residential aged care. The first four witnesses - Lisa Corcoran, Jodie Chard, Catherine Roche and Jessica Dodds - each gave evidence in respect of their experience of aged care, either as a young person in care, or as the relative of a young person in aged care. Their evidence focused upon the lack of viable alternatives to entering aged care, the need for improved access to rehabilitative services, and the social isolation experienced by young people in aged care facilities in which they are significantly younger than the rest of their co-residents. The fifth witness, Dr Nicholas Hartland PSM (First Assistant Secretary, In Home Aged Care Division, Commonwealth Department of Health (CDH)) gave evidence that the aged care system was being used for young people as a measure of last resort, and that it was a focus of the health care system to transition young people away from aged care and into an appropriate and well-funded disability scheme (such as the NDIS).

Day 2 – Tuesday 10 September

The second day of the Melbourne hearings began with the resumption of evidence from Dr Nicholas Hartland PSM, who said that there ought to be a better legislative protection for young people in or at risk of entering into residential aged care. The second witness, Michael Lye (Deputy Secretary, Disability and Carers, Commonwealth Department of Social Services (CDSS)) expressed the view that present plans to keep young people out of aged care had failed, and spoke to the implementation of a new plan, which had been informed by the failings of the past. Witnesses four and five, Neale Radley and Robyn Spicer, spoke about the experience of younger people in aged care, and the advantages and concerns affecting these people. Finally a panel of Scott McNaughton (Acting Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Government, Communication and Stakeholder Engagement, NDIA), Peter Broadhead (Acting Group Manger, NDIS Transition Oversight, CDSS and Chris Carlile (Assistant Secretary, Hearing and Disability Interface Branch, CDH) spoke to the development and implementation of the 2019 Younger People in Aged Care Action Plan, of which the NDIS was a critical element.

Day 3 – Wednesday 11 September

The third day of the hearings commenced with evidence from Vicki Rundle (Acting CEO, NDIA) who spoke to the rollout of the NDIS and the role that it played and would continue to play in avoiding the need for young people to enter into residential aged care. Kirby, Carol and Kevin Littley, Mario Amato and James Nutt all provided evidence of their experience in both residential aged care and with the NDIS, and provided views on opportunities for improvement. A panel consisting of Tamara Tomic (Chief Executive Lifetime Support Authority), Deborah Hoffman (General Manager Care Services icare), Suzanne Lulham (General Manager, Care Innovation and Excellence icare) and Liz Cairns (Head of Independence, Transport Accident Commission) spoke about the roles that their organisations play in ensuring that people with disabilities avoided the need to enter into residential aged care, and to the role that they thought the NDIS could play in filling gaps and performing foundational work across the sector. Finally, Dr Ben Gauntlett (the Disability Discrimination Commissioner) described the experience of young people in residential aged care as a human rights issue in which the rights of affected young Australians were being failed.

Day 4 – Friday 13 September

The final day of the hearings commenced with a panel of Luke Bo'sher (Chief Executive, Summer Foundation), Dr Bronwyn Morkham (National Director, Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance) and Shane Jamieson (Manager, Youngcare Connect, Youngcare) speaking to the systemic issues which had not been addressed, and which were resulting in the need for young people to enter into residential aged care. Kym Peake (Secretary, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services) provided evidence about the Victorian approach to young people in residential aged care, as well as the need for the NDIA to work with the states to combat this issue. Finally, Counsel Assisting Richard Knowles closed the hearings with submissions which condemned a lack of government action to close the gaps in the health care system which had existed for decades, and called for united action from state and federal governments and agencies to close these gaps and ensure that young persons were no longer at risk of being caught in aged care.

The Royal Commission will resume in Melbourne on 7 October 2019 and will inquire into diversity in aged care, including culturally and linguistically diverse people, LGBTI groups, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, care leavers, veterans, and the homeless or those at risk of homelessness.