Thursday, 9 February 2006
Questions without Notice
Health and Ageing: Dementia
My question is directed to the Minister for Aged Care, Senator Santoro. Will the minister inform the Senate of initiatives by the Howard government to assist the estimated 185,000 Australians and their families who are currently living with dementia? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?
I would like to say thank you to Senator Lightfoot for his question and acknowledge his interest in what the Howard government is doing to assist those living with dementia, their families and their carers. The senator is right when he says that there are more than 185,000 Australians currently living with this condition. By the end of this year, this number is likely to rise to 200,000. In fact, some reports predict that by 2050 it could be well over 730,000. While not a natural part of ageing, the incidence of dementia is likely to escalate with the ageing of our population. However, the Howard government has a very good record in this area of vital policy development and implementation.
In recognition of the impact of this serious health condition in Australia, the Howard government promised $200 million to make dementia an Australian government national health priority in the 2004 national election. What we are doing is delivering. We delivered over and above this commitment at the 2005 budget, delivering $320.6 million over five years, with three very specific and worthwhile measures. One measure—strengthening capacity—involves an allocation of $70.5 million for a range of projects aimed at strengthening key areas of the health and aged care sector for appropriate evidence based prevention and early intervention, assessment, treatment and care for people with dementia. A second measure, which is called EACH Dementia—Extended Aged Care at Home—consists of $225.1 million. Two thousand EACH Dementia packages will be allocated to approved providers via the annual aged care approvals round, with eligibility to be determined through the aged care assessment teams assessment and approval processes.
There is a third measure, which is again worth while enough to outline here in the Senate. It is called Training to Care for People with Dementia, which has been allocated $25 million. What this funding will do is provide dementia training for aged care workers and people in the community likely to come into contact with people with dementia, expanding current care education and workforce training projects managed by Alzheimers Australia and Carers Australia. That particular point is very important, because this government believes in involving outside community groups and bringing in relevant expertise in the administration of these much-valued and valuable funds. It will provide dementia-specific training for up to 9,000 community care staff and residential care workers and up to 7,000 extra carers and community workers such as police and transport staff.
On top of this, the Howard government also delivers $2.6 billion annually for a range of programs, including residential aged care, HACC, CACP, anti-dementia medication and dementia research to offer support for people with dementia and their carers. There is also a minister’s dementia national health priority task force, which I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday and which in fact was put in place by my predecessor, Minister Bishop.
I take the interjection from Senator Payne. It was a very good initiative. I had the opportunity yesterday to meet with all members of that committee. I was able to commend them for their public-spirited commitment to public duty and good public policy. They are people who give up their time freely to assist the government to implement the far-sighted policy which we announced at the election and have since been delivering.
There has been further progress in this vital area of policy. Dementia and memory loss centres in each state and territory to deliver information on dementia—about early prevention, early intervention, diagnosis, memory checklists, day workshops and counselling—are due to be operational by March 2006, something that even somebody like Senator McLucas would welcome as a good initiative. Six hundred and sixty-seven EACH Dementia packages were allocated in December 2005. In August 2005, the Australian government also hosted the national dementia research workshop to identify gaps in dementia research and provide direction for future research priorities. (Time expired)