The Federal Government’s decision to axe the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement following a ten-fold blow out in expenditure has drawn sharp criticism from industry and consumer lobbies.
Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield announced on Thursday the government would stop paying the $16 per day supplement to providers from 31 July. Mr Fifield said there was no other responsible course of action in the circumstances and he did not commit to a replacement scheme.
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO John Kelly said the supplement’s scrapping was a knee-jerk reaction that would jeopardise services.
Alzheimer’s Australia CEO Glenn Rees told AAA on Thursday that people with dementia were being made to pay the price for the poor handling of the supplement.
The Department of Social Services revealed to a senate estimates committee hearing on 5 June the supplement had already consumed its four-year allocated budget of $52 million in less than 12 months of operation.
Acting deputy secretary of DSS Carolyn Smith told senate estimates the supplement was expected to target 1 per cent of all residents but 15 per cent ended up claiming it.
ACSA criticised the lack of consultation from the government prior to the minister’s decision and said services were now at risk following the withdrawal of funding.
“It is convenient to flick an issue past the Aged Care Sector Committee and say there has been consultation, when there has been no real attempt to forge a clear path where people will be supported properly, despite the blow-out being apparent for some time,” said Adj Prof Kelly.
“A number of aged care providers were in receipt of this funding and it allowed those who had a cluster of residents eligible for the dementia supplement to recruit specialist dementia staff who could provide the best of care for these residents.”
Mr Rees said he was also disappointed the government had taken so long to respond to the oversubscription.
He said there was no sign that the original objectives that were set out in the aged care reforms were going to be implemented.
Shadow Minister for Ageing Shayne Neumann said the minister’s department knew about the oversubscription since late last year and had “every opportunity to act” before it had reached this level of expenditure.
‘Had to happen’
Taking a different view, HammondCare’s CEO Dr Stephen Judd told AAA he was unsurprised by the supplement’s termination.
He said the supplement, which was introduced in August 2013, had been poorly designed and implemented.
“Its cessation had to happen,” he said. “There is still a place to have a supplement but it has to be focused and targeted to that small group with severe behaviours requiring specialist dementia care.”
Dr Judd said there was no validation of the supplement and no requirement on providers to demonstrate what actions they were taking to deliver the specialist care required by their residents.
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An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the assessment tool was not validated. This has been corrected.