Members opposite have made a lot of comments today about consultation and engaging with the sector, and I think in this example it is a good example of where we do need to listen to what the sector has been saying. I would like to come to Mr Ian Yates, Chief Executive of COTA Australia, and to his comment on this issue. He said:
COTA Australia agrees with Stephen Judd that termination of the supplement was inevitable. Many providers were receiving very substantial extra funds without validation and with no guarantee of better outcomes for people with severe dementia symptoms
Mr Stephen Judd from HammondCare said:
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 …
And my emphasis there is on the word ‘severe’. Mr Bernie McCarthy, a clinical psychologist and dementia educator, said:
Claims were being made for people who were not eligible for the supplement. Some providers had as much as 60 per cent of their resident group on the supplement and this was a clear abuse of the supplement.
So the coalition does consult. We listen to people who are expert in the industry. Clearly, what they are telling us about this supplement is that it was poorly targeted; it was not actually a good use of taxpayers’ money to meet the needs of those people who do have severe behavioural issues associated with dementia. The figures speak for themselves in that, when you looked to try and understand how large that small group with severe behaviours was, the forecasts that came out were budgeting some $11.7 million in the first year.
It was introduced in 2013—it had never existed before. Around 25,500 people ended up receiving the supplement, which is far beyond the 2,000 people that were estimated to be covered. That meant that targeted funds did not go to the areas most in need. Every portfolio is under funding pressure—it does not matter from which side of politics. We, as the people who are given the responsibility by taxpayers to make good decisions about the use of funding, need to make sure that available funding is spent effectively and meets real need.
The program was designed to reach 2,000 people, but, because of poor design, is being spent on nearly 26,000 people. That is why over the forward estimates—the four years beyond the budget—it was to cost $780 million and over 10 years it was to cost $1.5 billion. How can we say that we are going to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money if we, instead of making good use of that $1.5 billion over a 10-year period, are putting it into a program that has been so poorly constructed that experts from the field say, ‘The supplement must be stopped.’? I will quote Mr Yates again:
Many providers were receiving very substantial extra funds—
that is the $1.5 billion we are talking about—
without validation and with no guarantee of better outcomes for people with severe dementia symptoms.
This government is saying, ‘We will continue to provide support through the aged-care funding instruments to make sure that people—whatever their needs—get support.’ Particularly when it comes to dementia, we are committing some $200 million in additional funding to dementia research in order to understand dementia through advisory services, the national pensioner support program and dementia training study centres. We are investing in the sector to improve the quality of treatment and any programs we put in place to specifically deal with dementia. That is the sign of a good government. A good government looks at a problem, consults with the sector, puts in place funding to research and understand the problem and then makes sure that its programs are measured so that it knows how effective they are, and only on that basis does it continue to put taxpayers’ money into the problem. (Time expired)