Vulnerable speak out over home help cuts


An elderly woman in ill health who has relied on a home help worker to bathe and dress her for the past 14 years was among the 1,500 people who attended a protest rally over the weekend.

The health of Pat Deeney (75) from Grange in Cork has been severely compromised since 1998, because of a brain tumour and a stroke. She has been left without the assistance of her home help at weekends, which means her husband, Terry (77), has little choice but to take over her personal care and grooming two days a week.

Mrs Deeney says she is hugely upset and worried by the cut in home help hours. “Are they just trying to kill us all off? It is dreadful. You have a friendship as well with the person coming through the door. It is vital.”

Her husband, Terry, said any savings being made in the Health Service Executive arising out of the cuts were being paid out in social welfare, as home helps turned to community welfare officers for assistance.

He added that it was “very stressful” to have to take care of his wife’s personal care because of the “brutal” cuts.

“It is not nice at the very least. When you get older any change is a big deal.”

Home help workers travelled from all over Ireland for Saturday’s rally, which started at Connolly Hall in Cork and continued up the Grand Parade to the city centre.

Among the protesters was Pauline O’Driscoll from Ballinlough in Cork who said home help workers acted as counsellors in addition to providing practical support to elderly people.

“The people I lost didn’t even get letters from the HSE explaining what had happened,” she said.

Linda Fitton from Douglas in Cork, who has worked as a home help for 10 years, has had her weekly hours cut from 25 to just four.

Among her clients is an elderly man who has had a liver transplant and relies on her to carry out housework.

Cut hours

“It was just housework one hour a week and that has been cut. He lives alone. His health is really bad. I have another woman in her 80s who was getting two hours a week and her hours have been cut. She is very feeble.”

Siptu organiser Ted Kenny said 500,000 home help hours had already been removed in 2012 and now the HSE was seeking to cut a further 600,000 hours before the end of this year.

“It would seem that the most vulnerable in our society are being made to suffer for the benefit of private, for-profit health companies who stand to benefit once the HSE has overseen the destruction of the currently highly efficient home help service.”