COTA Victoria coordinates a national collaboration of peak bodies and consumer advocates called the Assistive Technology For All (ATFA) Alliance. The Alliance has been advocating for improved access to assistive technology for the many older people with disability who are excluded from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety presented the Alliance with a unique opportunity to influence change. We made two submissions to the Royal Commission – one in December 2019, and the other in December 2020.
Our message wasn’t complicated. We believe that all Australians, irrespective of age, should have equitable access to assistive technology. It shouldn’t matter whether someone is accessing support under the NDIS or the aged care system – they should still have the same access to the assistive technology they need, when they need it. Right now, though, older Australians with disability who are ineligible for the NDIS do not have the same access to assistive technology as younger people with the same or similar conditions. This is discriminatory and inequitable, and it needs to change.
When the final report from the Royal Commission was released earlier this month, we were overjoyed to see that our concerns had been reflected in the Royal Commission’s recommendations and that the inequity experienced by older people with disability had finally been acknowledged. Four recommendations are of particular interest:
Recommendation 34: Assistive technology and home modifications category
From 1 July 2022, the Australian Government should implement an assistive technology and home modifications category within the aged care program that:
- provides goods, aids, equipment and services that promote a level of independence in daily living tasks and reduces risks to living safely at home
- includes the assistive technology, home modifications and hoarding and squalor service types from the Commonwealth Home Support Programme
- is grant funded.
Recommendation 72: Equity for people with disability receiving aged care
By 1 July 2024, every person receiving aged care who is living with disability, regardless of when acquired, should receive through the aged care program daily living supports and outcomes (including assistive technologies, aids and equipment) equivalent to those that would be available under the National Disability Insurance Scheme to a person under the age of 65 years with the same or substantially similar conditions.
Recommendation 73: Annual reporting to Parliament by the Disability Discrimination Commissioner and the Age Discrimination Commissioner
By 1 July 2024, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner and the Age Discrimination Commissioner should be required, as part of the new National Disability Strategy, to report annually to the Parliament on the number of people receiving aged care with disability who are aged 65 years or older and their ability to access daily living supports and outcomes (including assistive technologies, aids and equipment) equivalent to those available under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Recommendation 125: Abolition of contributions for certain services
(1) Individuals who are assessed as needing social supports, assistive technologies and home modifications, or care at home should not be required to contribute to the costs of that support.
While we are thrilled with these recommendations, at this stage they are just that – recommendations. The next step is to get government to implement them. The Assistive Technology For All Alliance believes that the best way for the aged care system to achieve parity for older people with disability in this area is by establishing a national aids, equipment and assistive technology program to support people with disability who are excluded from the NDIS. The Government already knows how to do this – the final report from the 2019/2020 Review of Assistive Technology Programs in Australia provides all of the answers.
Over the coming months, we will be ramping up our advocacy efforts and asking Government to outline how it intends to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations on assistive technology. It’s time for the assistive technology funding gap to be addressed once and for all, and for older people with disability to be treated with the dignity they deserve. We’ll have to show that there’s widespread demand for change, so we need your help. There will be a range of opportunities for you to add your voice to this important cause, so stay tuned for further details!
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