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Dementia supplement gone

Fifield cites eligibility blow-out; providers decry short notice. 

The government has announced it has decided to cease the dementia and severe behaviours supplement.

Funding will stop from July 31.

“The supplement was designed to provide additional resources for providers who give care to people with severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia,” assistant minister for social services senator Mitch Fifield said.

“Unfortunately, the supplement has not operated as anticipated, having gone well beyond the budget allocated to it by the previous administration.”

Whilst it was estimated that just 2000 people in residential care would be eligible for the supplement, as of March, 25,451 people were receiving it.

“This represents a 12-fold blow out in the eligibility estimates of the previous government,” he said. “The supplement was budgeted at $11.7 million for [the last] financial year. Instead, it is anticipated the cost in 2013–14 will be about $110 million.

“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.”

Alzheimer’s Australia was disappointed by the announcement. “It is vital that a new scheme is implemented as soon as possible to deliver the original objective of ensuring scarce resources within residential aged-care funding benefit those with the greatest needs,” Alzheimer’s Australia CEO Glenn Rees said. “People with dementia should not suffer because of a government expenditure blow-out.”

Catholic Health Australia argued that the timing couldn’t be worse for providers. “Aged-care services across Australia have largely completed their budgeting processes for 2014–15 and they had factored into those budgets the expected funds from the dementia supplement,” CHA director of aged care Nick Mersiades said. “Many are now faced with looking into how to save money wherever possible, rather than compromising the additional care they have been offering to people living with the severe behavioural symptoms of dementia.”

He said five weeks’ notice of cessation was not reasonable and added it was CHA’s understanding that the extra spending had been known about since late last year. “At the very least, the dementia and severe behaviours supplement should remain in place until alternative arrangements are put in to provide the additional support required to care for this vulnerable group,” Mersiades said.

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