Tuesday 20 February 2018

Hands off the home-helps, O'Rourke tells Reilly

PHIL RYAN, MAEVE SHEEHAN and DANIEL McCONNELL

FORMER Minister Mary O'Rourke has called on Health Minister James Reilly to keep his "hands off home-help hours" ahead of a major protest planned for outside the Dail in the coming weeks.

Ms O'Rourke, whose memoir Just Mary is being launched this month, said the slashing of home-help hours was "a minor saving for a service that is a major help for older people".

She added: "I think anybody who would think to bring about a cut in home-help hours have no idea what it means to an older person who lives in their own home.

"Cutting home-help hours mean the difference to an older person of living a life, not of luxury or comfort, but of relative peace in their own home."

Her comments come as the Sunday Independent can reveal that voluntary groups working with people with disabilities are expected to face a one per cent cut from their funding in December, on top of existing cuts to home-help hours and other services.

The cuts are disclosed in internal emails in which health officials discussed alternative ways of saving €10m from the disability budget, after public outcry forced the Minister for Health into a U-turn on cutting personal assistant hours.

The €10m savings were part of an overall plan by the HSE to save €130m before the end of the year. But since the minister reversed proposed cuts to personal assistance hours, voluntary groups providing such services are now being squeezed to meet the necessary savings.

In an email last month, Laverne McGuinness, a national director of the HSE, outlined a list of "efficiency" savings that would "culminate in a reduction of less than one per cent in a full year (0.9 per cent) of the providers' annual budget".

In a follow-up email, the minister's adviser, Maureen Windle, queried the "percentage impact" of the €10m in four months. A Department of Health official replied that it was her understanding that the HSE "will simply deduct this proportion" from the December payment to voluntary groups.

Sunday Independent

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