Federal government axes dementia supplement

July 2, 2014 | Aged Care Management

The federal government has recently announced a decision to cut funding for the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement, following a significant change of the budget originally set forth. 

The supplement was originally designed as a way to help providers with the cost of expensive dementia care, by paying them $16 per day. The Department of Social Services has announced that the four-year budget of $52 million was used in less than 12 months.

Following the announcement, industry bodies expressed their criticism of the decision.

Adjunct Professor John G Kelly AM of Aged & Community Services Australia announced that the "knee-jerk reaction" ignores the present reality of older Australians.

"There is a substantial body of residents in aged care with significant dementia-related behaviours," Professor Kelly said.

"The withdrawal of funding ignores the problems faced by providers and their staff. Services that were funded to help these residents are now in jeopardy, much to the despair of staff and families."

He went on to explain how people with severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia require a high level of care, and the essential nature of funding. Facilities with the supplement in place were able to recruit specialist staff able to provide a high level of care.

Funding climbed substantially after the establishment of the supplement, and was estimated that 15 per cent of all residents ended up claiming the service, when it was designed for one per cent.

HammondCare CEO Dr Stephen Judd explained to Australian Ageing Agenda that it was unsurprising the supplement was terminated.

"Its cessation had to happen, 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." he said.

With the cut in funding, it's going to remain crucial for providers to develop strong financial strategies.