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Sunday 25 August 2019

More than 7,000 vulnerable people now waiting for home help support

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The number of vulnerable people waiting for home help support around the country has soared to around 7,200.

It comes amid a looming funding deficit for the Fair Deal scheme after the HSE failed to adequately budget for people living longer.

Opposition politicians have described the situation as a "real crisis" and claimed older people are "bearing the brunt of cutbacks".

The HSE is struggling to stay on budget while responding to the rising demands of Ireland's ageing population.

Its budget deficit for the year already stands at more than €116m.

The HSE last night told the Irish Independent the number of people assessed, prioritised and waiting for new or additional home help services is around 7,200.

That is a rise of just under 900 since April, adding to pressure on the service.

Mary Butler, Fianna Fáil's spokesperson for older people, said she is very alarmed at the surge in the number of patients waiting for both home care and Fair Deal scheme places.

She said it "points to a real crisis in health service provision for older people".

Ms Butler was provided with figures showing that there were 6,819 people on the home help waiting list at the end of May.

She said she is also concerned that the allocation of home help hours is "way behind schedule".

On the basis of the 7,157,942 hours provided to the end of May, she predicted that the number of hours provided by the end of the year will be more than 700,000 short of the target for 2019. Ms Butler said that Minister of State for Older People Jim Daly "needs to get on top of this".

Labour Party health spokesman Alan Kelly claimed that a cap on sufficient funding for home help supports and the Fair Deal scheme "means older people are bearing the brunt of Government cutbacks".

Mr Kelly added: "The failure to properly budget for the Fair Deal scheme means the waiting lists for nursing home supports continues to grow."

He called on the Government to "ensure sufficient funding is in place now so that people can be cared for at home and that, where needed, families can access the Fair Deal scheme".

Mr Kelly said this would take pressure off doctors and GPs at a time when there is a growing and ageing population.

Last night, a HSE statement said its home support service aims to help older people remain in their own homes as long as possible.

It said that of the 7,200 people waiting for new or additional services, the majority are living at home.

The statement said that 17,900,000 home support hours will be provided to 53,000 people at any given time this year.

The HSE said: "Despite this significant level of service, the demand for home support continues to grow.

"The main reason is the increase in our older population."

It said the HSE must meet its home support hours target for 2019 but conceded that with the ongoing increase in demand "this is a challenge".

According to the HSE, home support hours are "continually prioritised and allocated based on people's needs and the resources available".

It said that, as of June, an extra 240,000 hours of care had been provided compared to the same period last year.

The statement acknowledged that "waiting times are too long" and said that people being discharged from acute hospitals, who can return home with supports, are prioritised.

It was revealed yesterday that the number of people waiting for a nursing home place under the Fair Deal scheme rose 16pc in the space of just three weeks last month from 729 to 846. The numbers applying for Fair Deal this year is in line with expectations - but fewer than expected nursing home residents have died.

Mr Daly said: "This is of course a good thing, people are living longer, but in turn the situation is putting pressure on the scheme's budget for the year."

Irish Independent

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