AGED care services in the south-west will need to find thousands of dollars after the Commonwealth pulled the plug on dementia funding.
One Warrnambool aged care leader has labelled the move “a disgrace” because of the timing by the government.
The decision by the government to scrap the funding — known as the supplement — caught the industry off guard less than a week before the end of the financial year.
Warrnambool’s largest aged care service Lyndoch Living had already finalised its budget.
Now it will have to go back and find $280,000 pulled out by the federal government.
“I think it’s a disgrace that they’re doing this on such short notice,” chief executive Rhys Boyle told The Standard.
“We’re going to have to go back and revise the budget,” he said.
“There’s no one program that we can cease, that’s our dilemma.”
Under the supplement, clients with dementia and behavioural issues were given extra support on top of existing services.
Up to $110 million was set aside to be spent over four years, but was emptied in just 12 months.
Assistant social services minister Mitch Fifield blamed the former Labor government for poorly planning the scheme.
“This is not a problem of the government’s making, but it fell to us to address the situation,” Mr Fifield said in a statement. But the scheme will not be replaced.
The number of dementia cases in the south-west will nearly triple to 5000 by 2050.
According to 2013 figures from Alzheimer’s Australia, there are 467 dementia sufferers in Warrnambool.
Across the south-west there are 1750 people with the illness. That number will spike dramatically to 4986 by 2050.
In a statement, Alzheimer’s Australia called on Canberra to urgently announce new funding. “It is vital that a new scheme is implemented as soon as possible,” it said.
“People with dementia should not suffer because of a government expenditure blowout.”
Other aged care services have also been hit in Warrnambool and the south-west.
Mercy Health told The Standard up to 10 per cent of its clients would be affected.
“It is unfortunate the supplement has been removed as it assisted Mercy Health in providing specialised education to staff, family and the wider community,” executive director Voula Yankoulas said.
Mr Fifield said the fund had “gone well beyond the budget allocated to it”.
At the time it was thought 2000 people in residential care would be eligible, but by March this year 25,451 people were receiving the supplement.
“This represents a twelvefold blowout in the eligibility estimates of the previous government,” he said.