New home help rules aim to end 'callous' cuts
PEOPLE who receive home help can no longer have their hours cut without first being personally assessed.
And they cannot be informed of a reduction or cancellation of their home help service by answering machine.
The revised rules follow uproar over the way the Health Service Executive (HSE) implemented moves to cut €8m from the home help budget in the last three months of the year.
Members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children rounded on Health Minister James Reilly and HSE chief Tony O'Brien for the callous way the cuts were imposed.
Laverne McGuinness, a HSE executive, said that with the new set of rules a public health nurse or other staff will have to do a full assessment of the person receiving the service before any decisions are made.
The emphasis will also be on people who need care as opposed to those who rely on home helps to do household duties and similar tasks. The client will also have a right of appeal if the hours are cut or the service taken away.
TDs and other public representatives have also been given the name of an official in each HSE region who is delegated to deal with home help queries.
The HSE is also to produce new standardised guidelines on home help which will be applied nationally.
Dr Reilly admitted that the personal assessment of each client would slow up the process of achieving the €8m savings.
Meanwhile, the Home Help/ Home Care Community Action Group has presented more than 10,000 signatures to the HSE in Dublin, demanding an immediate reversal of the cuts to home help hours and home care packages.
John Hancock, a partially-sighted double-amputee from Cavan whose home help hours were cut recently, said: "These cuts are horrible, but there are others worse off than me whose hours of care are being cut, and I'm here to fight for them as well as myself."