Home-help supports come under pressure

 

Sir, – Why is it that whenever the health services have to make savings they automatically look to home care for these cuts (“HSE targets home helps to save €500m”, Fiach Kelly and Martin Wall, Front page, June 22nd)? Is it because they do not see the value of the work that family carers do in caring for their loved ones at home? I don’t believe it is.

Is it because they don’t care that thousands of family carers are struggling mentally, physically and financially due to the lack of supports and services in their community. Again, I do not think that is the case.

Is it perhaps because they see home care and family carers as a soft target? Do they know, or at least think they know, that family carers won’t go on strike, they won’t lay down their tools and hand over the care of their loved ones to the State.

Sadly I do believe this is the case and it is simply indefensible.

The inefficiencies in the health services do not lie in home care provision – in fact family carers save our State an estimated €10 billion each year. In the majority of cases home care is far more economical than residential or hospital care.

Added to that, it is stated government policy to care for people with disabilities, older people and those with long-term illness in their home for as long as possible; yet practice remains completely at odds with policy.

In 2018, spending on nursing home care was 2.5 times more than spending on home care. Families are being forced to choose nursing home care over home care.

Yet again the threat of cuts to home-care are looming over us. This although there are more than 6,000 people on waiting lists for home-help services.

The term “subject to available resources” must be the most frustrating and exasperating words for families who are told they have been assessed and approved for home-help hours but cannot access these due to lack of available resources.

In fact, the resources available are wholly inadequate. Home care needs immediate injection of ring-fenced funding of €100 million.

The question then arises as to how this will be funded? Although the Government’s 10 year Sláintecare Action Plan states within its eight principles that “Care will be provided free at the point of delivery based entirely on clinical need” there has been much talk recently about co-payment of home care services.

Under a new statutory entitlement to home care, it is proposed that families would be asked to contribute financially to the care of their loved ones at home.

Family Carers Ireland is adamant that before this discussion can take place the definition of home-care services must be clarified and families would need to be clear what it is they would be expected to pay towards.

If, for example, it means simply extending the current inadequate home-help services to more people, then families should absolutely say no to any form of co-payment.

If, however, the new statutory scheme were to include access to a range of quality supports and services including respite provision, day-care supports, technical aids and appliances, housing adaptation grants then there may be scope for families who are in a position to contribute to do so while ensuring that no family would be denied access to supports based on inability to pay.

This is a discussion that needs to take place sooner rather than later, but for now, care in the home is in crisis and the threat of further cuts or freezes to supports must be taken off the table.

While family carers may not be in a position to go on strike they do have overwhelming public support in their battle for fairness and this will become an election issue if Government continues to ignore the plight of carers.

Family Carers Ireland meets Minister for Health Simon Harris this week to discuss a proposal to Government to end the current post-code lottery of services and supports that exists for family carers across the country.

We sincerely hope our request will fall on listening ears and our Government will show that it does in fact care about the carers. – Yours, etc,

CATHERINE COX,

Head of Communications

and Carer Engagement,

Family Carers Ireland,

Co Kilkenny.