Just 300 extra home-care packages for 2,400 people
The HSE is only funded to provide an additional 300 home care packages this year - despite a waiting list of more than 2,400 mostly elderly people who need the support.
The extent of the demand highlights the need for a statutory home care scheme which would guarantee people who are assessed as needing care to a minimum level of support.
Around 16,450 currently have a home care package provided free by the HSE.
It comes in the wake of the publication yesterday of a report, analysing statutory home care services in four countries in Europe, highlighting the financial pressure they face.
Older People's Minister Helen McEntee said the findings of the report will feed into the public consultation process on the kind of statutory home care scheme to be set up here.
The consultation will begin at the end of next month and will not last longer than around nine weeks, she said.
No decisions have yet been made on how the proposed statutory scheme will be financed.
But on the basis of similar schemes in Scotland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany, is looks certain that it will be means assessed.
This is expected to take into account people's income and savings to determine what level of financial support they should get towards home care.
It would also determine how much they will have to contribute in out-of-pocket co-payments.
"The development of a new statutory home care scheme is a complex process which will require detailed preparatory work. A dedicated unit has been established within the Department of Health to progress this work as a matter of urgency," the minister said.
"A consultation process, which is planned for the end of May, will allow all those who have views on this topic to have their say, including older people themselves, their families and health care workers."
Age Action, the advocacy organisation for older people, warned that the planned consultation on a statutory home care scheme must not focus only on funding but on the type of care provided as well.
Justin Moran, head of advocacy and communications, said: "We would be particularly worried about any proposal to introduce a means test. This could prevent people getting the supports they need to stay at home and may lead to greater costs in the long run as individuals denied home care deteriorate and end up needing nursing home care."
However, Ed Murphy, who runs the home-care company Home Instead and is contracted by the HSE to provide home care packages, said the only way a statutory scheme can be sustainable is to introduce a means test.
He said he advocated the system in place in several other countries where people are assessed and given vouchers to purchase a certain level of home care. They are free to top it up from their own resources.
An hour's home care costs the HSE around €23.90 and on average a home care package can provide eight hours' service to the client a week, he added.
He said a significant number of people in nursing homes could be at home with the right support.
A spokesman for the HSE said it currently does not charge any fee or co-payment for its home care but people can make private agreements.