Tuesday, 19 October 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Home Care Packages
96. To ask the Minister for Health the number of older persons on the waiting list for home care support in each local health office area in CHO 7; the corresponding figures for each area at the end of June 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50709/21]
I am taking the question on behalf of Deputy Lawless. Home care enhances the experience for many older people in the later stages of their lives. However, there seems to be many obstacles to providing it. I know from speaking to families throughout County Carlow that they are being put through great hardship in applying for and being granted home care packages. How many older persons are on the waiting lists for the home care support in the local health office area? My area is CHO 5 and Deputy Lawless's is CHO 7. I understand if the Minister of State does not have my figures today.
I thank the Deputy for her question. She has raised this issue with me on many occasions. The Government has prioritised improved access to home support services through an additional investment of €150 million in 2021 for these services, which has been maintained under budget 2022. Estimated data indicate more than 13.2 million home support hours had been provided between January and August which is approximately 2 million more hours compared against August 2020. The number of people assessed and waiting on funding has significantly reduced through 2020 and 2021. This has mainly been as a result of validation of waiting lists and availability of funding. I have the CHO 7 figures. Some 250 people were waiting for funding approval at the end of August 2021, including 21 from Dublin south city; 98 from Dublin south-west; 53 from Dublin west; and 78 from Kildare and west Wicklow. However, at the end of June 2020, 1,232 people were waiting, and therefore, there has been a significant reduction.
The HSE will continue to work towards increasing home support provision.
However, there are difficulties recruit with recruitment and retention of staff, with certain areas experiencing increased pressures. This can lead to delays between the approval of funding and the delivery of home support hours. When I came into the post, more than 7,200 people were waiting for approval of funding for home care supports. That figure has fallen by 88%, but now we have another challenge, which is the recruitment of home care workers. I am in a situation now where I have the budget to pay for it, but we are having difficulty in recruiting the home care workers. As a result, the Department is committed to establishing a strategic workforce advisory group with involvement of key stakeholders. I will talk more about that in a minute.
I thank the Minister of State. Again, I compliment the Minister of State for fighting hard in the budget to get €150 million for the home care packages. We are all living for longer now. Please God, we are all for living longer. Going forward, many families will want to keep their mother or father in their home. It is important they have that choice. We can see that the issue is recruitment. That is the biggest issue. We have the funding, yet we do not seem to have the staff. What does that mean in that case? Are we looking at putting it on a statutory basis? It is in the programme for Government that there will be a timeframe for this to become a statutory scheme. Maybe the Minister of State can explain that. One of the biggest issue we as Members face is where families ring us all the time looking for home care packages and they just cannot get them. One of the biggest issues that probably will face any Minister going forward is to try to get staff to make sure families who want to keep their parents at home will be able to do so.
The whole premise of Sláintecare is the right care, at the right time, as close to home possible. All I ever want to do is listen to the voice and choice of older people and make sure we can support them with the correct wrap-around supports at home. As I have said, we are spending €666 million on home care every year. That is the budget. That was increased by €150 million this year. To have the budget but to be short of carers is very disappointing. We are putting in place the strategic workforce advisory group, with the involvement of key stakeholders, including representatives from the sector. I have recently met with Home and Community Care Ireland, HCCI. There is involvement from education, because carers come in at a level 5 FETAC. There is obviously also engagement with the Government. The group will provide forum for practical action and collaboration, but we need to address things such as recruitment, retention, pay and conditions, skill development and sustainability of employment into the future. I want to see that first meeting happening as soon as possible.
I thank the Minister of State. Recruitment will be crucial. I also wish to ask, because I know she has been working on this, what extra supports there are in home care packages for those with dementia. I have spoken to the Minister of State several times about dementia. Will we see more funding for that? What supports will be there for that? It is very important. As the Minister of State said, the budget has been and gone and I know how hard she fought. However, I can only say that it is so hard on the people who have been ringing my office and have been trying to contact community nurses and the HSE, crying for extra supports at home. I ask only that we look at recruitment and funding and make sure we can recruit as soon as possible. I know that is out of the Minister of State's hands, but getting the staff when she has the money is going to be crucial for families now.
I have had previous interactions with the Minister of State about right home care. We all accept we need a solution to this because families are desperate to gain home care packages so they can keep their loved ones at home. CHO 8 is one of those pilot areas, and we are still having difficulty. The representations I send in are still being returned. We have difficulty in getting people recruited. I did welcome the strategic workforce advisory group when I first heard about it. I am aware the first meeting has yet to happen, but what element of work has been done? The Minister of State has spoken about looking at almost every possibility, whether that be permits, tax breaks or whatever. Where exactly are we in delivering a solution, especially for those who cannot get home care, particularly at weekends? It has become a huge difficulty for many families.
I thank Deputy Murnane O'Connor for the question about home support specifically for people with dementia. Yesterday, I travelled to Kerry to open the 30th memory technology room for people living with dementia. This was the first purpose-built room in Ireland. We have 29 others. It is fantastic to see the money that was so hard fought for in the budget delivering on the ground. It makes such a difference.
Last year in the budget I secured €250,000 for home care services ring-fenced specifically for dementia. These services were gone by July of this year, which is unbelievable. That will tell you the demand that exists for home care. This year in the budget, working with the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, I was able to secure 11% of the five million extra hours for next year, which is in excess of 550,000 hours, specifically for dementia. As well as this, I secured another €7.3 million to roll out different dementia-specific supports to help people live at home. We want people to age well at home. That is our focus.