Dementia funding withdrawal hurts vulnerable older Australians

Older Australians living with dementia and severe behavioural and psychological symptoms are at risk of receiving a lower quality of care after the Assistant Social Services Minister Mitch Fifield announced the Government is scrapping the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement.

Mr Fifield said a projected 10-fold overspend in the first year of the Supplement has made its continuation unaffordable, but the timing of the announcement couldn't be worse, Catholic Health Australia argues.

"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," said Catholic Health Australia director of aged care Nick Mersiades.

"Many are now faced with looking 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.

"It is our understanding that this overspend has been known about since late last year."

Mr Mersiades said it is reasonable for Mr Fifield to consider the future of the Supplement in light of the vast disparity between the estimated cost and the actual cost in the first 10 months of its existence, but to offer five weeks' notice of its cessation is not reasonable.

"This is about more than Budget overspends. This is about providing the best possible care, which is what older Australians deserve to receive," he said.

Mr Mersiades said the Minister's commitment to working with providers and consumers to reach an agreement on how best to support people with dementia and related behavioural symptoms is encouraging, but this work needs to be prioritised and completed urgently.

"At the very least, the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement should remain in place until alternative arrangements are put in place to provide the additional support required to care for this vulnerable group," Mr Mersiades said.

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