ALONE is responding to reports that further cuts are planned for home care services.
ALONE, the charity which supports older people to age at home, is calling for increased funding and improvements in the provision of Home Care services across Ireland. The charity is advocating for funding for this vital service to be linked to demand to ensure that any older person in need of home care can access the support they need.
ALONE believe that the current state of home care provision is contributing to increased vulnerability and challenges for older people, their families and home care workers. The charity is asking for a funding review ahead of Budget 2020 in order to best support older people as they age, as well as the overstretched staff who deliver these supports.
ALONE is concerned that much of the demand for home help is invisible on paper as some regions without the resources required do not keep waiting lists, and their need goes unrecognised. In many cases throughout Ireland, older people must already be in acute hospital in order to receive home care. As well as this, staff delivering home care are under significant time pressure and underpaid.
Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, said, “The CHO waiting lists for the end of September 2018 indicated that 6,423 people were waiting for home support funding, and it is likely that many more people were not recorded. We are urging Government to take levels of demand into consideration in Budget 2020. While it is not news to us that new packages are not being made available at the moment, the Government, along with the public, must understand that these issues are hugely affecting older people on an individual level. Currently even those people who are receiving home care are experiencing gaps in service provision as currently the service only covers personal and medical care.”
“Reports from our staff and volunteers indicate that the provision of additional home care packages can support quicker discharge from hospital and reduce the pressure on A&E departments. Recently we worked with a woman who remained in hospital for three weeks longer than necessary because of the difficulty of getting home care in place.”
Moynihan also emphasised the need for Government to consider the ways home care provision is of benefit to the health system. “This vital service is strategically important to enable people to live at home, and without sufficient funding for it, the aims of Sláintecare will not be achieved,” he said.
“In our work with other agencies and Government departments, we have been told that the funding for home care isn’t there due to a lack of evidence supporting the cost benefit of home care. The benefit of home care to the health system is not to save money in hospitals, but to ease the pressure on overstretched A&E departments by enabling speedier discharge and keeping people well at home for longer. Without funding for community care, we will increase dependency on hospitals and nursing homes, where staff and resources are already under huge pressure.”
He concluded, “We were concerned by reports made last week suggesting a reduction in home care packages made available to older people in need. Under Sláinte care, a statutory home care scheme is due to be introduced by 2021. While we are hopeful that the statutory scheme will resolve some of the issues with home care provision, we are still several years away from its implementation and we need to work to improve services for people who are in need of home care today – not in two years’ time. We urgently need to improve our system to ensure that those who need home care support receive the hours they require, not just the hours that there is budget for.”
Home support hours are a lifeline for older people to age independently at home. In 2018, ALONE in partnership with other organisations in the Home Care Coalition, called for an additional €100m in funding for the home care scheme in order to address the lack of available home care packages.