Enough is enough!

Around 1,500 concerned members of the community are planning to march on parliament and demand government action to restores dementia funding.

Above: CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glen Rees

By Yasmin Noone

Concerned members of the aged care sector, people with dementia, their family and friends are planning to unite and form a force to be reckoned with.

On October 13,  around 1,500 people are expected to descend on Canberra, march from old to new parliament house and demand that the federal government restore dementia funding and recommit to making dementia a National Health Priority.

Alzhemier’s Australia, who is behind the march, mean business and are now demanding action.

This is because the organisation wants the federal government to overturn the 2011/12 budget decision to terminate Dementia Initiative funding in 2013. 

Earlier this year, the federal government announced plans to introduce a new national funding pool from 2013, to provide health funding to various competing health causes, like heart disease, cancers, diabetes, dementia and many others. It said the pool will be administered by an independent and jointly-governed national funding body distinct from Commonwealth and state departments.

The Commonwealth’s move to cease funding in two years times means that there will be no funding guarantee for dementia and, unless the government recommits, the disease will no longer be recognised as a government health priority.

CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glen Rees, is confident that the new system of funding will fail his cause.

“The Department of Health and Ageing has collapsed all existing programs – about 18 – into flexible funding pools,” Mr Rees explains.

“The department argues that the flexible funding pools will help organisations as it will cut administration and increase the flexibility the department has to address priorities.

“My view is that the funding pools will prove to be immensely complex. We don’t know what the guidelines for funding will be. In some cases, as with the dementia initiative, the existing funding will be split between a number of pools and I can not see that the new system will reduce administration unless funding is increased.

“It seems most unlikely the new system will offer any benefits to those with chronic diseases like dementia which have missed out [in getting the amount of attention and funding needed] over last 20 years.

“I have no confidence at all that the new system will benefit people with dementia in any way.”

Mr Rees also worries that this new system will not come with new, additional funding to combat the growing dementia epidemic, to delay the onset of dementia in an increasing number of older Australians or to raise awareness about the disease.

Worse still, he says, the termination of the Dementia Initiative means the loss of guaranteed funding for essential programs and support services for people living with dementia.

“There are currently 269,000 Australians living with dementia and the number of people with dementia is set to increase by almost 50 per cent over the next 10 years,” he said.  “By 2050 there will be almost one million Australian’s with dementia”.

“When delivering services and conducting dementia- related research, “we have to plan ahead. The importance of the guaranteed funding is that it does enable people to plan ahead, with confidence, to deliver training, dementia care research and other elements of the dementia initiative.

“We believe guaranteed funding is very important.”

According to Rees, the government has no evidence to justify terminating the Dementia Initiative.

Implemented in the 2005 federal budget, Mr Rees said successive governments continued to support the Dementia Initiative even at the end of the funding term because it was a success.

The initiative was also independently evaluated and found to have made a substantial contribution to support people living with dementia and their carers. It lifted the profile of dementia by making it a National Health Priority and developing a coordinated policy response.

Time for action

Alzheimer’s Australia is now calling on everyone in the sector to get behind its fight to restore dementia as a National Health Priority well beyond 2013.

It wants the 2012/13 federal budget to also allocate an extra $500 million over the next five years.

This, Mr Rees said, will go far to help promote a greater awareness of the disease; achieve timely diagnosis of dementia; provide quality dementia care in community, residential and acute care settings; reduce the future numbers of people with dementia and make Australians aware of what they can do to reduce their risk of developing the condition.

“We hope that solidarity will be shown by all parts of those who have a stake in aged care,” said Mr Rees.

Alzheimer’s Australia recently launched a new “Fight Dementia” campaign, an action plan and a toolkit to rally community support for the cause. It has also created a ‘dementia champion’ initiative; is organising a peaceful protest march from old to new parliament house in Canberra on October 13 and is calling for interested people to provide the organisation with a story about their journey through dementia.

“We would like people living with dementia to write to their federal representatives to tell their story and support the need for dementia to be a priority in the 2012 budget,” the campaign toolkit states.

“You might also seek a meeting with them to explain in more detail the issues you have faced and to encourage them to also become a dementia champion and meet with people at the Fight Dementia March on October 13.”

“…We need your support in this fight against dementia.”

For more information about the campaign, click here, email fightdementia@alzheimers.org.au or call 02 6254 4233.

Note: AAA approached the Department of Health and Ageing for comment on this issue but they did not respond in time.

Tags: aged-care, alzheimers-australia, alzheimers-disease, dementia, department-of-health-and-ageing, fight-for-dementia, national-health-priority,

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