TAX relief to allow the elderly and other people with a disability to be cared for at home is to be increased, it was announced yesterday.
It will mean the relief available to employ a professional nurse or carer in the home increases from €50,000 to €75,000 per annum.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch welcomed the move from Finance Minister Michael Noonan, saying it will "help families to look after an incapacitated elderly relative in their home by employing a nurse or carer."
Around 800 people, many of them needing homecare, occupy hospital beds and more than 2,000 are on a waiting list for financial help with €1,000-a-week nursing home bills.
Ms Lynch said: "This initiative will allow families to care for their elderly loved ones in their own homes and will hopefully help to reduce stress levels for both the carer and the older person. At the same time it will relieve pressure on waiting lists for nursing home beds for those who cannot be cared for at home".
She claimed it will allow families to continue to care for incapacitated elderly relatives within their own home. It should free up nursing home beds that could be used for others currently on a waiting list.
The tax relief will increase from €50,000 to €75,000 from the new year.
The organisation Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI), representing private homecare companies said: "Homecare is generally people's first choice for care in their later years, and this measure will help to make it more affordable especially in cases where more complex care is needed."
Chairman Michael Harty commented: "In these times of reduced funding and ever increasing demands on the elder care budget, the HCCI feel that homecare has an important role to play.
"It will help to ensure we are getting the maximum benefit from our healthcare budget and decreasing the pressures on the Fair Deal Scheme and hospital overcrowding.
"Measures such as this are also important in taking steps of making sure that budgets are spent in accordance with patient wishes."
The high number of mostly elderly people who no longer need to be in hospitals is contributing to overcrowding and affecting the availability of beds for patients who need to be admitted from waiting lists for various kinds of surgery.