Waiting time for HSE homecare can be more than two years - report
Over-65s find more difficulty getting State help now than a decade ago as waiting lists rise to 6,100
People in need of HSE homecare are waiting longer than two years in some cases for the service while the average delay is three-and-a-half months, a damning new report reveals today.
The current waiting list stands at 6,100.
But pensioners are now finding it more difficult to access homecare than a decade ago.
The findings from an investigation by the Care Alliance Ireland reveal the length of time elderly or disabled people have to endure before getting the vital support to allow them to remain at home.
Care Alliance Ireland executive director Liam O'Sullivan said the results from a series of Freedom of Information requests to the HSE showed variations across the country.
He estimated there is a gap of 18pc - or four million care hours - between what is needed and the service people receive.
"The report finds that while there have been more homecare services provided in recent years, the reductions in homecare in 2011 and 2012 hurt hard - meaning it remains more difficult for someone aged 65 or over to access home care now than it was over a decade ago," he said.
It exposes a postcode lottery and no consistency across the country with a number of clients in one region deemed "low priority" on a waiting list for more than two years.
"One region replied that it was not possible to calculate the time between each application being received and approved. We believe this response lacks credibility."
The average wait in one region was six to nine months while in another it was 24 days, although it was immediate for end-of-life care.
Another region in the HSE said priority cases took two to three days and others a month.
Another had no waiting list for "high-priority" applicants and a six-month wait for people classed as "low priority."
Only four regions could supply figures showing the level of service it was providing versus the demand.
"Only three of the nine HSE regions provided the full data requested. This is of concern. The law is clear about the right of the public and civic bodies to such information," the report warned.
An older person can get as little as half an hour's home help while a homecare package can involve six hours of service a week.
"We are concerned that there was no mention of additional resources for homecare in 2019 in this month's Budget. We urge the Department of Health to instruct the HSE to set out ambitious targets for the delivery of extra homecare hours in their 2019 service plan."
The report makes 10 recommendations, including calls for more transparency in the sector, better information for prospective clients, and a family carer assessment tool consistent across the country.
The report estimates an 18pc gap could be addressed over the next three to four years with an additional €110m in resources for home care.
The report says the HSE outsourced some work to private companies and this had led to a 'race to the bottom' with zero-contract hours for some staff and lack of availability of care during evenings and weekends.
There is also work to be done in better informing people about how to apply for homecare.
The report calls on the Department of Health to prioritise the review of the homecare scheme: "We do not get a sense that the proposed statutory homecare scheme is a departmental priority.... progress has been very slow."
It said this may be due to having to charge people a contribution towards the cost of homecare.
It is estimated that demand for homecare will increase by 3.5pc a year.
The need is particularly pronounced among the over-85s who need more support in order to be able to live independently.