Seanad debates

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Home Help Service

2:30 pm

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin Bay North, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for raising this important issue. I will respond to some of the issues raised and also follow up on them. I share the Senator's views on the valuable work carers do in our society. Home supports enable older people to remain in their own homes and communities, as well as facilitating timely discharge from hospital. The Government has made investment in home support services a priority. Progress in this area is reflected in the additional funding made available in recent years, with the budget growing from €306 million in 2015 to nearly €446 million in 2019. More than 50,000 people benefit from this service at any one time. As outlined in its national service plan for 2019, the HSE maximises the utilisation of current resources. It prioritises those who require discharge from acute hospitals. Significant resources and services in 2019 have been targeted to facilitate timely egress.

In winter 2018-19 the focus was on reducing the number of delayed patient discharges through mobilising the additional resources made available and ensuring social care measures were deployed effectively to enable older people to move to a more appropriate care setting, including step-down or transitional care in their own home, with the requisite supports.

When talking about home support, we must also recognise the support provided for people with a disability. That area is part of my portfolio. The HSE is fully committed to maximising the provision of health and personal social care services for people with disabilities, including home support services, within available resources, empowering them to live independent lives. In its national service plan for 2020 the HSE expects to deliver 3.08 million home support hours to more than 8,000 people with a disability.That is an increase of 150,000 hours on last year's target. Therefore, it is a significant investment. I also acknowledge that in some cases access to home support services may take longer than we would like. However, the HSE has assured the Department that people on the waiting list are reviewed as funding becomes available to ensure individual cases continue to be dealt with on a priority basis within the available resources and as determined by the local line staff who know and understand the client's needs and undertake regular reviews of those care needs to ensure the services being provided remain appropriate.

The HSE welcomes and encourages feedback from its clients on home support delivery. I emphasise that it is not HSE policy that a client's existing level of service be reduced on receiving a complaint. If a client's needs change, the client or the carer can request a review by contacting the local health office. In line with the commitments given in the programme for Government, we have made improved access to home support services a priority in budget 2020. An additional investment of €52 million is being made in 2020 which will support the provision of over 19.2 million hours of home support. That is 1 million hours more than the 2019 target and represents a substantial increase in service provision.

While the existing home support service is delivering crucial support to many people across the country, it needs to be improved to better meet the changing needs of citizens. The Department of Health is developing plans for a new statutory scheme and system of regulation of home support services for older people and adults with a disability. Included in the investment is dedicated funding for the testing of the new statutory home support scheme in 2020.


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