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Postcode lottery for homecare revealed as 6,000 elderly people left waiting for support

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Thousands of elderly people nationwide are waiting for homecare funding - but a snapshot of waiting lists reveals a postcode lottery for the vital service.

Parts of Co Dublin, Co Galway and Co Wexford are among the worst for waiting times, while in areas such as Co Louth and Carlow/Kilkenny there was nobody waiting to be approved.

There were more than 6,000 people waiting for funding for new or additional home support services at the end of October.

The scale of the waiting lists was revealed in response to a parliamentary question by Fianna Fáil's health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly.

It shows that people living on the north side of Dublin (1,567), in Co Wexford (588) and Co Galway (557) are faced with the longest waiting lists.

In Co Clare, Co Mayo, Co Laois and Co Offaly the waiting lists were also in the hundreds. However, Co Kerry, parts of Co Cork, Co Tipperary, Co Longford and Co Westmeath had short or non-existent waiting lists.

While waiting lists are managed locally, the HSE was not able to provide information on how long people were waiting for funding as this is not collated nationally.

In a response to Mr Donnelly, the HSE said: "Those people who are on the waiting lists are reviewed, as funding becomes available, to ensure that individual cases continue to be dealt with on a priority basis within the available resources."

A standard national approach is being implemented by the HSE to ensure there is a more consistent assessment of needs of elderly people seeking homecare.

The interim general manager of home support services, Kathleen Jordan, said the HSE is committed to supporting older people to return home but warned that funding "though significant" is "finite".

"Service delivery must therefore be delivered within the funding available," she said.

More than 14 million home support hours had been provided nationally as of the end of October.

In Dublin north, north central and north-west there were 2,328,728 hours provided - more than any other area around the country. However, despite the high level of service provision, the area also had the longest waiting list with 1,567 people awaiting approval.

The areas which had the second highest number of hours were Co Kerry and Co Cork, with 2,282,355 hours provided. Waiting lists in parts of these areas were comparatively low with 166 people on the waiting. Although in Co Kerry, north Cork and the north Lee area nobody was waiting.

Mr Donnelly said homecare supports are in place to help some of the most vulnerable in society. "Behind all these people is an unseen army of helpers - friends and family who go above and beyond to take care of those they love. They deserve to know that if they take time for themselves their loved ones will be in safe hands," he said.

A planned revamp of the homecare system to put the service on a statutory footing is on the cards - but it could be next year before it is in place.

The overhaul would see homecare put on a statutory footing for the first time and is expected to operate along the lines of the Fair Deal scheme.

The industry will also be subject to greater regulation under the Government's proposals.

A shortage of homecare funding was noted in a recent report on people being left in hospital for longer than was medically necessary.

Additional funding for homecare packages was provided as part of the HSE winter plan in an effort to ease the hospital overcrowding crisis.

Irish Independent