This year’s Federal Budget has delivered a mixed bag of budget measures that will impact on the more than 342,000 Australians living with dementia, their carers and families.
Carol Bennett, CEO Alzheimer’s Australia said the funding of $73.7 million over four years for Home Care Packages that aim to increase consumer control, choice and flexibility through enhanced Consumer Directed Care (CDC) was welcome.
“There is still work to be done to ensure that these measures deliver on that promise by ensuring choice of providers, affordability and access to specialty dementia services,” Ms Bennett said.
Alzheimer’s Australia welcomes an integrated plan to support carers who often provide care to people with dementia, including investment in a Carers Gateway of $33.7 million over 4 years for access, information, support and referral to carer specific supports and services.
An increase in short-term restorative care places from 4000 to 6000, funded from savings from the aged care planning ratio, will enable more people to move between residential aged care and the community.
“While we welcome support that enables people to live in the community with dementia, it is important that this does not come at the expense of other aged care places,” Ms Bennett said.
A reduction in the level of funding ($20.1 million over 4 years) under the Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing (ATSIHAG) grants will be achieved by targeting services towards frail older Australians and people with dementia (now called the Dementia and Aged Care Services Fund).
“Alzheimer’s Australia is pleased to see the government recognise the importance of dementia-specific services but is concerned about the impact that the broader cut to this program will have on the sector’s capacity to provide quality of care,” Ms Bennett said.
Alzheimer’s Australia holds concerns regarding a reduction to the Aged Care Workforce Fund (now the Aged Care Workforce Development Fund) of $40.2 million over four years for better targeting of aged care development support.
“It is important that the aged care workforce is better supported to meet the growing demands that will present in the coming years for dementia care,” Ms Bennett said.
“We do not want to see a reduction in the quality of life for people impacted by dementia through poor training of staff and a lack of focus on dementia specific approaches.
“It is paramount that programs that make a huge difference to the quality of care for people with dementia such as Dementia Care Essentials (funded through this program stream) are not only maintained but enhanced to meet demand.”
Alzheimer’s Australia congratulates the Government on implementing the recommendations of various reviews that called for the management of the aged care complaints scheme to be moved from the Department of Social Services to the Independent Aged Care Commissioner.
“This is a strong measure that will improve consumer protection and independent scrutiny,” Ms Bennett said.
Alzheimer’s Australia also welcomes the investment of $10 million into the Medical Research Future Fund this year and $400 million over the next four years, with an expectation that funds will be directed to dementia research.
“Research for prevention, care and cure is essential if we are to tackle the impact of dementia on our communities,” Ms Bennett said.
“The investment in last year’s Budget of $200 million was welcome and this funding can enhance that commitment. We would like to see this fund continue to grow but not at the expense of important health programs in areas like prevention.
“We are disappointed that funding has not been found for prevention programs that can delay the progression of dementia, such as the world’s first publicly-funded Your Brain Matters program.
“Among all the measures that have been announced tonight, it is critical that these changes make a positive difference in the lives of people with dementia, their carers and families. This can only happen if people with dementia, their carers and families are involved in the design and implementation of all measures.”