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Counting the cost

Dementia support funding under review after cost blowout. 

Assistant minister for social services Mitch Fifield has revealed the government’s decision to review the design of the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement.

Fifield confirmed he is considering options that will “realign the design of the program to the funding envelope laid down by the previous administration”.

As of March 2014, the supplement had supported 25,451 people, compared to the original estimate of 2000. This will result in the supplement costing $110 million by the end of the 2013–14 financial year, as opposed to the original estimate of $11.7 million.

“This represents a twelve-fold blow out in the eligibility estimates of the previous government, and almost a ten-fold blowout in expenditure,” he said.

“If these claiming patterns continue, it is estimated that $780 million will be spent over the four years from 2014–15, compared to the original estimate of $52 million. Over a ten year period, it is estimated that around $1.5 billion would be spent.”

Although originally welcoming the supplements, LASA CEO Patrick Reid said LASA raised at the time a range of concerns in regard to the assessment criteria, the tools to be used, who could undertake the prescribed assessment tools and who it would actually cover.

“It is evident by the number of people assessed as displaying behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) that quality care and service provision is required to meet the specific needs of these people,” Reid said.

“Unfortunately the development of the program was shrouded in secrecy, something LASA does not see as conducive to a productive relationship between policy makers and industry.

“To amend the criteria now, as a simple means to reduce subsidy payments, would indicate that those suffering BPSD do not require additional services. This is a premise that LASA cannot uphold.”

Glenn Rees, CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, said the group has no problems with a review as long as there is “a commitment to a supplement which meets the original objective, which is to provide extra assistance to service providers providing care for those with the most difficult issues in respect to dementia”.

“I think it comes back to how well government funding is targeted on those who need the most care,” he told ACI. “If that can be done more precisely at a lower cost, we would have no problem with that.”

He said three areas of focus for the review should be compliance, revisiting the assessment tools and basis for assessment and the introduction of a government approval of providers positioned to provide quality dementia care.

Fifield confirmed that he will seek input from the Aged Care Sector Committee on “an appropriate response to this situation”.

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