ACT Election 2020: Older Canberrans and Aged Care

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today released the 11th of twelve 2020 ACT Election issue briefs, calling for parties and candidates to commit to actions to support older Canberrans and their carers, and to improve the quality of aged care in the ACT.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “A just and fair Canberra means ensuring our city’s services, housing, healthcare, transport and community infrastructure meet the needs of older people. It means ensuring that the contribution that older people make to the social, community and economic life of our community is valued, and their participation in community life is supported.

“Housing affordability is a major concern for older Canberrans who are living on low or fixed incomes. In August 2020, Anglicare found that there were only four private rental properties out of 768 in the ACT that were affordable for a couple on the age pension, while none were affordable for a single person on the age pension.

“Housing also needs to be appropriate for older people. ACTCOSS is calling for all new residential properties in the ACT built to meet Universal Design standards to make them able to be adapted and accessible to all people regardless of age, disability or other factors, and support for reforms of the National Construction Code. The lack of adaptable and visitable housing results in social isolation and premature entry into nursing care for too many ageing Canberrans as well as people with a disability.

“Older Canberrans also need appropriate and affordable transport options to access essential services and to ensure people are not disconnected from community life. Investment in community transport is needed at sustainable levels with long-term commitments.

“We need to ensure that older Canberrans receive quality aged care, whether at home or in an aged care facility. We must ensure that older people are protected from abuse. ACTCOSS welcomed the passing of the Crimes (Offences Against Vulnerable People) Legislation Amendment Act 2020 and call on an incoming ACT Government to commit to the full funding and implementation of this important legislation.

“We also need to ensure that carers in our community are supported to access respite care.”

Dr Campbell concluded: “A just and fair Canberra requires us to be an age-friendly city that recognises older people’s contributions, values their participation, provides protection from abuse and discrimination, and supports their carers.

“As the ACT’s population ages, we need to ensure our services, infrastructure, and laws enable older Canberrans to enjoy a good quality of life and a strong sense of wellbeing by being connected to their community.”

Quote from Jenny Mobbs, CEO, Council on the Ageing ACT (COTA ACT)

“Canberra needs a plan for dedicated affordable rental accommodation for seniors. There is a growing number of senior Canberrans who are facing a real risk of homelessness due to their long-term rental properties being sold, or through unexpected life events. There is no emergency accommodation suitable for seniors and nothing where they can remain together as couples – this is vital where one is the carer for the other.

“Canberra has an increasing number of senior residents who have modest retirement income or savings but are falling into a gap in the system. This group has insufficient funds to buy or rent on the private market but too much to meet public or social housing eligibility criteria. Self-funded retirees can be penalised further by not having access to benefits available to pensioners even though their actual incomes may be similar. Those who do meet the eligibility criteria for public and social housing still face months or years of uncertainty on long waiting lists.

“Other states have facilities where seniors can live independently in retirement village style communities without the high upfront buy-in costs but paying rent. Mostly these are owned and run by not-for-profit organisations with a mission to support affordable housing but the lack of availability and high cost of land in Canberra has prevented this from happening here. There is a need for affordable rental accommodation and these small communities create a support network for the residents allowing them to remain relatively independent and active for longer.”

Quote from Michael Bleasdale, CEO, ACT Disability Aged and Carer Advocacy Service (ADACAS)

“The next ACT Government must focus on preparedness for COVID-19 and it should follow the recommendations coming out of the Aged Care Royal Commission. Alongside this, we support a focus on housing suitability for the older population, and the need to proactively support the mental health of older people living in aged care, both residential and at home.

“In addition to the building of all new housing in the ACT to universal design standards the ACT Government must ensure there are viable programs in place to ensure that existing housing can be modified to meet the needs of the growing numbers of people who wish to age in place. Commonwealth aged care funding has not yet identified the optimal way in which to fund modifications to the extent that they are needed, and this will result in people being prematurely admitted to residential care, against their wishes, because they do not have access to the funds to make their homes accessible and adapted to their needs.”

Quote from Lisa Kelly, CEO, Carers ACT

“As we enter a decade that will be focused on the way we care for and value our ageing population it is vital that we recognise the role family carers will make in supporting health, wellbeing, independence and in-home care. Family and friend carers are essential to ensuring the choices of aged people are respected and care is provided in ways that respect dignity. To support our ageing population, it is essential that we support family carers through the provision of respite and wellbeing activities.”

Quote from Jenny Kitchin, CEO, Woden Community Service

“The need for adequate community transport is the backbone to supporting vulnerable people in our community to access essential services. If we had the additional funds to do so, we could transport so many more people for their medical, social and educational needs.”

Find the ACTCOSS 2020 ACT Election issue brief Older Canberrans and Aged Care here.

Find other ACTCOSS issue briefs at our ACT Election page.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

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