Interviewer: Laura Jayes
Reynolds: It has absolutely grabbed me as an issue very early on when I had advocates come and speak to me. And I became aware that nearly 6500 young Australians were in aged care simply because there was nowhere else for them to go. And the more I looked into it the more horrified I became because it simply doesn’t need to be this way. There are solutions out there but we haven’t been talking about it and we need to fix it. Aged care is not somewhere for a young person it be, it is simply not.
Jayes: Certainly not but is one of those solutions the NDIS – the National Disability Insurance Scheme?
Reynolds: I think that is part of the solution and that is part of what we are talking to people around the country on now. But I think the first thing, and this is what we have heard today is to hear the voices of young people as young as 17 and 18 to hear what they want because one of the things – the message we have got is that their voices are not heard. They lose choice and the ability to determine where they live, how they live and what they do with their lives. So we are listening to what they want. And it has become very clear that they haven’t been listened too. There are options and certainly the NDIS is part of that but what we are looking to do is we will be feeding into the NDIS committee and to the agency the solutions we come up with on how to fix some of the gaps in the system but also what are some of the new and innovative housing options but the solutions are all out there but no one has brought them together yet.
Jayes: Surprised to hear you say Senator that the NDIS is only part of the problem. This is a massively expensive scheme, you know a $20 billion scheme, why is it only part of the problem? Are you talking about this long term or in the build up to having the full scheme come – means these young people will still fall through the gaps?
Reynolds: Laura that is a good question and the NDIS is part of the solution in terms of the disability and the disability support. So I think it is a wonderful initiative and it is really highlighting some of these issues. But where people fall through the cracks, particularly with complex needs, they not only have disability support requirements but they also have health requirements. We heard that today is that people, because they’ve got some complex health needs there is nowhere for them to go. And the disability sector doesn’t necessarily pick them up because they are health issues. So what we are looking at today is how can we bring these two together to really get good outcomes for the individuals and give them the life that they want to lead.
Jayes: So what did you get out of the inquiry today? What evidence was given that you though surprising or is this why you have been doing this because this is not surprising to you?
Reynolds: The evidence today was utterly heartbreaking and with some of the evidence I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. These are some people whose voice hadn’t been heard for a very long time. So not only was it emotional for them but it was also emotional for us about the implications to their lives of going into care where they are not getting the rehabilitation they need. 82 per cent don’t even leave the home throughout the year, their friends don’t visit, they live the life of an old person surrounded by death and dying. And so hearing some of those stories today I think it made all of us even more resolved to deal with this issue because the solutions are absolutely out there. This is something we can fix.
Jayes: I’m sure you do want to manage expectations but what can you promise these young people?
Reynolds: Well I think the first thing is to have their voice heard. To look for ways that they can be much more in control of the decisions that are made for them and to provide them more housing options. I mean there are simple things that we have heard today that people and their families who sometimes in some of the most traumatic periods of their life have no information. They don’t know where to go, they don’t know how to navigate the disability system, the health system, housing systems, social security. So even simple things that might be simple to you and I to bring it all together so people can get the right information, they know where to go and that people actually listen to them is very very important and also then to provide this information back to the NDIS and their case managers. For example, there was a young woman I met in Geelong last week Kirrily, she has been in a home for two and a half years, a young vibrant women – a mid-twenty year old. She’s only there because she’s got a pressure sore and it hasn’t been fixed. So these are the sorts of things-
Look at the individual and work out together how we can fix them and not just leave the languishing in aged care.