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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7130

Mr BUTLER (Port AdelaideMinister for Social Inclusion, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform) (18:28): I thank the member for Hindmarsh for his question. Can I say that, from the government's perspective, the chairpersonship of the member for Hindmarsh on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing has been extraordinarily valuable for the government. I know that that committee is now conducting an inquiry in dementia, so, not only does the member for Hindmarsh represent the wisest electorate but he is also deeply engaged in some of the issues he alluded to in his question, particularly around the emerging epidemic of dementia. I also know, having been a close friend and supporter of his since he was first a candidate for the seat of Hindmarsh in 1998, that he has been very closely engaged in all of that time with the aged care sector and so understands the issues intimately.

Dementia, as the member for Hindmarsh indicated, is an emerging epidemic in this country. Currently, around 300,000 Australians live with dementia and that number is expected to double every 20 years, to the point of more than a million experiencing or living with dementia by 2050 if we do not make very serious inroads into our capacity to detect it early and to treat it, if not entirely cure it. Dementia is a very significant challenge to the community. It is going to be the leading cause of disability across Australia by 2016. It obviously is already the leading cause of disability for older Australians, but will be, in health terms, the leading cause of disability generally in the Australian population in only four years time. The ABS data that was released recently indicates that the number of deaths caused by dementia over the last decade increased by 140 per cent.

Alzheimer's Australia is the key organisation in this area and has been running a very effective and very valuable campaign called Fight Dementia, that used the opportunity presented by the Productivity Commission's inquiry to raise public consciousness, and frankly consciousness within this building, about issues associated with dementia. I said, at a number of their forums, that a response to the Productivity Commission report and a response to the aged care reform challenge that did not have at its heart a response to the dementia epidemic would not be a decent response. I am very pleased to indicate to the Federation Chamber and to the member for Hindmarsh that dementia is at the centre of the Living Longer, Living Better policy that they Prime Minister and I outlined some time ago—to the tune of $268 million in new initiatives to deal with the dementia epidemic. We have also indicated, the Minister for Health and I, that we will be taking to the August meeting of health ministers, a proposal that dementia be added to the existing list of eight national health priorities. We are very confident that will get the support of all of the state and territory ministers, and for the first time, dementia will be recognised for what it is: a national health priority.

Within the Living Longer, Living Better package, there are a range of elements dealing with the challenge of dementia. Firstly, all home-care packages from July 2013 will attract a dementia supplement of 10 per cent for those recipients of home care who have a dementia diagnosis. Currently, only about six per cent of home-care recipients qualify for the EACHD package, which is a package particularly designed for people living with dementia. Our reforms will mean that 26 per cent of home-care recipients—from six to 26 per cent of home-care recipients—will qualify for a 10 per cent supplement on their entitlement to home care. Additionally, we are introducing a new supplement in residential care to deal with the needs of people with very severe dementia—the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

We are introducing new elements to the DBMAS scheme, the Dementia Behavioural Management Advisory Scheme, to deal with the particular needs that Indigenous Australians and Australians of a CALD background have when experiencing dementia, particularly language reversion—reversion out of English, even if they have very good adopted English, to their original language—and all the additional challenges that presents in terms of providing them with care and support. There is funding available for more timely diagnosis, dealing with the challenge that more than three years is the average time taken to give a proper diagnosis of dementia—lost years in terms of a family's capacity to get the supports and to make the plans that they need to live life as well as they possibly can with such a very serious condition. I thank the member for Hindmarsh for his question. I am very proud of the dementia elements in this package.