Minister queries 'enormous expense' of Fair Deal Scheme for the elderly

QUESTIONS surrounding the fundamental aims and “enormous expense” of the Fair Deal Scheme were raised at last night’s Pfizer/ …

QUESTIONS surrounding the fundamental aims and "enormous expense" of the Fair Deal Scheme were raised at last night's Pfizer/ Irish TimesHealth Forum addressing issues concerning older people in Ireland.

Minister of State for Older People Kathleen Lynch questioned whether the scheme, which funds care for the elderly, is what the public really wants.

She said the vast expense of the scheme, which will cost just over €1 billion this year in terms of cost of care for the elderly, does not cover basic requirements such as therapies and practical supplies such as incontinence pads.

“It’s an incredibly expensive system, but do we really want to spend all this money doing what we shouldn’t be doing? We spend an enormous amount of money on delivering a service in this country and no one seems to be happy with it. If you were to say to anyone in audience are you happy with it the answer would be, ‘Yes, but . . .’ We are not certain about it,” she said.

She added the headline cost figure does not reflect actual spending within the Fair Deal scheme.

The debate, chaired by Fintan O’Toole, featured Eamon Timmins, head of advocacy and communications at Age Action Ireland; Dr Hilary Cronin, consultant geriatrician and medical director of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing; and Prof William Molloy, of the Centre for Gerontology and Rehabilitation, University College Cork. Dr Cronin said the unfolding demographic shift would see the over-80s age group tripling in the next 20 years.

She said funding needs to be targeted at those most in need.

“How often people are audited and their changing needs assessed needs to be addressed,” she said.

Eamon Timmins said figures quoted by Minister for Health Dr James Reilly would place more people in nursing homes than ever before. “The challenge for Government is to make sure people are provided with the care they need in the most cost-efficient way.”