UnitingCare set to lead on LGBTI ageing
In what is described as a first for the aged care industry, UnitingCare Ageing has taken the step of appointing an LGBTI project officer to liaise with community and health organisations to help gain a better understanding of the challenges facing older LGBTI people.
The announcement by the largest aged care provider in NSW and the ACT comes only a month after the Federal Government said it would include LGBTI people as a ‘special needs group’ under the Aged Care Act in an attempt to improve the support LGBTI seniors receive as well as provide for increased staff training on matters of sexuality, gender identity and diversity.
There are approximately 250,000 people across Australia and more than 70,000 people in NSW over the age of 55 who identify as LGBTI.
According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Kinsey Institute, the number of older LGBTI Australians – who account for up to eight per cent of older adults aged 65 years and over – is expected to rise in line with national trends to approximately 500,000 people by the year 2051.
UnitingCare Ageing director, Steve Teulan, said the appointment of Kellie Shields (pictured) as the organisation’s LGBTI project officer reflected a willingness to promote real change in the sector.
“We listen to the needs of individuals and communities. We know that you can’t impose a service on a community. Nor can you expect any service to be one-size-fits-all,” he said.
“We already have a proud and active presence in social justice matters, I can only hope this effort is successful in furthering that work.”
Discussing her appointment, Shields said there was an increasing awareness amongst the aged care sector relating to the ageing people in the LGBTI communities.
“UnitingCare Ageing recognises that there is an unmet need for services and partnerships that support the LGBTI community’s aspirations for care,” she said.
“A preliminary review of information indicated that there may be reluctance to access health and aged services, especially from faith based organisations, usually as a result of both real and perceived discrimination.”
LGBTI ageing issues have come under wider focus of late following last year’s groundbreaking Caring For Older Australians report from the Productivity Commission which for the first time included specific reference to the challenges facing LGBTI seniors as they weigh up options for in-home or residential nursing home care.
Earlier this year, the executive director of UnitingCare NSW, Reverend Harry Herbert, signalled his intentions to do more to promote inclusiveness and diversity when he publicly gave his support to marriage equality.
“UnitingCare realises it’s not just about speaking out on inclusiveness, but then backing that up with money, time and resources,” Herbert said.
“I look forward to hearing what Ms Shields reports back to our organisation and to meet with stakeholders in the community myself.”