Australia’s major political parties are engaged in a tit for tat over the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement, as the cessation of the scheme approaches.
Appearing at a doorstop interview at Doutta Galla Aged Care services in Avondale Heights earlier today, Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten described the axing of the supplement as a “disaster for aged care”.
“There are 108 residents here served by great staff,” Mr Shorten said. “But there is real anxiety in Doutta Galla age services and thousands of other places like this across Australia because tomorrow the Abbott Government is cutting services for residents with dementia.
“Tomorrow we are going to see at this place alone, 35 age care residents diagnosed with dementia, lose a $16-a-day supplement. This is a disaster for aged care, Doutta Galla services and throughout Australia.”
Appearing alongside Mr Shorten, Bruce Mildenhall, chairman of Doutta Galla, told reporters the end of the supplement was a “dreadful attack” on residents.
“We run a network of community-based aged care facilities and as of tomorrow, $800,000 is being ripped out of our annual budget. These services, these therapies that help provide a decent and a reasonable quality of life for people who are severely affected by dementia are going to disappear unless severe cuts are made to other operating parts of our budget.”
Mr Mildenhall said that while the Federal Government had described dementia as one of the top 10 health issues facing Australia, it had decided to “bury their heads in the sand, withdraw the money and perhaps hope the problem goes away.”
He said their message was: “The problem is here today, it is here tomorrow and we have got far less money, far fewer resources and far less access to the specialist services to look after people who are severely affected by dementia in our community.”
Blame lies with Labor, says Coalition Government
Responding to the press conference, Marise Payne, Minister for Human Services and Acting Assistant Minister for Social Services, said Mr Shorten was attempting to blame the government for “his own party’s policy failure in aged care.”
She said the decision to cease the supplement was a difficult one to take, and it was regrettable that “there was no other responsible course of action in the circumstances.”
“The blame for the cessation lies fairly and squarely at the feet of the previous Labor Government. Their flawed policy design, which led to the supplement going well beyond the funding envelope they provided for it, left no other option but an immediate cessation. The legacy of our predecessors is one of poor policy execution leading to unintended consequences.”
Consultation with the aged services sector was taking place on how the government could support people with severe behaviours in residential aged care, she said.
Ms Payne said the supplement was not designed to top up funding for general dementia care, nor was it the prime funding mechanism to support people with dementia. “Funding continues to be available for providers to support the care needs of residents – including care needs associated with dementia – through subsidies determined using the Aged Care Funding Instrument,” she said.
Consultation on replacement scheme
Meanwhile the aged care sector is awaiting news on what scheme will replace the axed supplement. On Monday the Aged Care Sector Committee met with government, and AAA understands that a forum will be held in August or September to bring together the supplement’s expert advisory group and the committee.
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