Australia’s peak LGBTI health organisations have applauded the Gillard Government’s move to include LGBTI people as a special needs group under the Aged Care Act.

The Government also announced $2.5 million would be allocated over the next five years to train aged-care workers to better support LGBTI seniors.

“Many older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians have experienced considerable discrimination over the course of their lives,” the Government said in its report into changes in the aged-care sector.

“It is important that their sexuality or gender identity are recognised and supported in delivering aged care services.”

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill welcomed the announcement.

“We are hopeful these initiatives will ensure that LGBTI people receive the same standard of care as others in the community,” he said.

National LGBTI Health Alliance general manager Warren Talbot said the move was necessary, but also called for the Gillard Government to implement a national LGBTI aged-care strategy to ensure future projects are rolled out effectively.

“The special needs of LGBTI people are often neglected,” Talbot said.

“We look forward to multi-partisan support for [this] change.”

Last year the Productivity Commission released its Caring for Older Australians report which detailed the concerns of LGBTI seniors for the first time, including their fear of discrimination in aged-care services.

Alliance ageing and aged-care working group convenor Corey Irlam told the Star Observer inclusion of LGBTI issues under the Act means aged-care providers will have to consider LGBTI issues.

“All private providers, not-for-profit providers, religious providers applying for funding will need to consider what they’re doing for the individuals under each of those special needs categories,” Irlam said.

“But also it will enable the Government to provide targeted packages where there’s a proven needs base to service the need of the LGBTI community.

“[This] may in future assist with things such as a gay and lesbian aged-care home, or service provision in the home.”

Irlam said the next step of the process will be to look at inclusive aged-care standards, both for residential and community care.

Gerontologist and LGBTI ageing expert Dr Jo Harrison said the announcement marks a a significant shift in thinking on LGBTI ageing issues, “from virtual invisibility, to a clear and solid presence”.

“It is testament to the hard work of those in our community who have raised the serious concerns related to LGBTI aged care and discrimination over many years, particularly older GLBTI people themselves,” Harrison told the Star Observer.

“Special needs group status will enable access to funding and increased attention within policies and programs across aged care. It will also send a strong signal to providers of aged care.”

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