A “complete overhaul” of the State’s attitude to providing care for older people at home is “urgently needed”, according to Galway East TD, and Minister for Rural Affairs, Seán Canney.
Minister Canney’s comments followed recent media reports that high volumes of applications for the Fair Deal nursing home package were aggravating the HSE’s financial difficulties.
He said a “large number” of beds at acute hospitals were being taken up by people who would “prefer to be at home, being cared for by family or friends”. However “huge obstacles” are being put in the way of this happening. As a result he has called for reform of the Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit system within the Department of Social Protection.
Currently, people have to wait up to three months to have an application assessed, a timeframe Minister Canney said is “too long”. He said it was unreasonable to expect an individual to give up work to look after an elderly relative and wait three months to see if they would receive a social welfare payment for it.
He also raised the issue of home care supports. Once a person is in the Fair Deal system, the HSE is paying more than €800 per week for their care on an ongoing basis. “Yet it is impossible for them to offer you the alternative of staying in your own home with 10 to 14 hours of home help,” he said. “Older people who wish to be cared for in the home and who have the available carers, must have their wishes facilitated.”
Minister Canney is calling for “significant extra resources” to be put into the Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit sections of the Department of Social Protection to deal, and for processing times to be reduced to less than one month. He also wants to see the provision of home care hours, as an alternative to nursing home support under Fair Deal, be prioritised.