Media Release by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Shorten Blames Coalition for Labor Failure in Aged Care

Senator the Hon Marise Payne
Minister for Human Services
Acting Assistant Minister for Social Services

Bill Shorten has today attempted to blame the Coalition for his own Party’s policy failure in aged care.

Earlier this year the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Mitch Fifield, took the very difficult decision to cease the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement.

The Supplement was not paid directly to people with dementia, but to their providers. It 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.

Consultation with the sector is already taking place on how the Government can support people with severe behaviours in a residential aged care setting.

The previous government estimated that 2,000 people in residential aged care would be eligible for the Supplement. But as at March 2014, 25,451 people were receiving the Supplement.

This represents a 12-fold blow out in the eligibility estimates of the previous government.

The Supplement was budgeted at $11.7 million for the 2013-14 financial year. Instead, it is anticipated the cost will be around $110 million.

Based on these figures, there will be almost a ten-fold blowout in expenditure.

According to projections from the Department of Social Services, if current claiming patterns continue, the $16 a day Supplement will cost the government $780 million over the four years from 2014-15 rather than $52 million, and over $1.5 billion over ten years.

The cessation was not a decision this Government took lightly. It is 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. This Supplement is emblematic.

Labor should have the decency to be honest with the aged care sector that it was their own ineptitude that has led to the current situation.