The role that the NDIS, or the National Disability Insurance Scheme, plays in aged care is an important one. Lynne Slevin, The Salvation Army Aged Care’s NDIS Program Coordinator explains that her team looks after seventy residents who live in our aged care centres located in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. All of these people entered into aged care before turning sixty-five-years-old. “These residents are  known as “young people in residential aged care,” she says. Lynne explains that the NDIS services that she and her team provide facilitate community connection for these residents because many of them can’t access the community independently.

“Things like going out for a coffee, going out to a cafe for lunch or catching a ferry; small things are a really big deal. These are the things that you and I take for granted. It's all those fundamental rights that we all enjoy that they often don't have,” she says. “Outings to gardens, trips to the beach; just those normal everyday things that they miss out on being able to do. And it's not necessarily because they're in aged care. It's just because they aren’t  able to access the community independently.”

As Lynne works in our head office, she manages the co-ordination of all the support services, which she says have been integral to the residents’ wellbeing this year. She explains that with the restrictions relating to aged care due to the pandemic, her support staff have still been able to engage the residents in activities through things like movie afternoons, card and board games. “We were able to keep the engagement going and keep people actively involved,” she says.

People who use the NDIS have permanent, lifelong disability that can be physical, intellectual or psychosocial. “For a lot of our residents, mental health is their primary disability,” Lynne explains. “A majority of the disabilities have been as a result of substance abuse.  These disabilities can also include acquired brain injuries and complex mental health issues. Looking at this cohort that The Salvation Army Aged Care looks after, that really fits in with The Salvation Army’s mission to look after vulnerable persons.”

Every year on 3 December, the United Nations acknowledges International Day for People with Disability and this year, the theme is: “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”. For Lynne, “Everybody has so much to offer,” she states, initially, before explaining that she thinks that it is important that people recognise that just because someone isn’t like us, or because we don't perceive them to be like us, it doesn't mean that what they've got to contribute is not valuable.

“I think that it's really important to include people in their communities; to make them feel valuable. They do have something to contribute. But we have a long way to go in that regard. Because people just have these automatic, preconceived generalisations,” Lynne says. She refers to her friend who has Down Syndrome who has a painting in the nationally recognised Archibald Prize this year. “I'll say to her: ‘you know, I can't paint, I can't draw, but it doesn't mean that I'm disabled. Look what you can do. So why are people saying that you've got a disability when you can do amazing things?’ And I just think those are the type of things we need to look at; that everybody has gifts.” Lynne goes on to explain that she thinks that everybody has abilities and disabilities. “I just think that everybody should just look at what people can offer,” she says.