Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Residential Care for Elderly.

5.

asked the Minister for Health if he will increase the amount payable by health boards under the boarding-out scheme from the present £20.00 to £50.00 per week, so as to provide adequate residential accommodation for old people at a reasonable cost to the State.

The amounts paid by health boards who operate boarding-out arrangements for elderly people, are regarded only as subventions towards the costs involved. At present the maximum weekly subvention payable is £20. The elderly people concerned are also expected to contribute to the costs in accordance with their own means.

I have no proposals before me at the moment to increase the level of subventions paid or being paid.

As the Minister does not propose to increase this very small sum of money, is he aware that it costs £116 per head to keep old people in residential accommodation at the moment? Is he also aware that there are very many old people living in very poor conditions who are anxious to get into residential care but because of the shortage of finance——

A question now, please, Deputy.

——this accommodation is not available?

I completely share the Deputy's concern. My main point is that if we are spending as much as we are on hospitals, money should be spent on geriatric accommodation and accommodation for the physically and mentally handicapped, not £500 or £600 a week for a hospital bed. That is where the money has to be redirected.

Would the Minister not consider an extra £30 as a very small amount of money to provide those people with proper care and accommodation? In view of the budgetary commitment last year of £1 million to undertake an emergency programme on a national basis to provide better living accommodation for old people living in insanitary and unfit accommodation, would he not consider this to be a very small amount of money? May I add that, in County Galway, £60,000 only——

I am sorry, Deputy, but every question now seems to start off by a short speech and we cannot have that.

In County Galway £60,000 of this money was made available. There were 130 applications. The health board felt there were people living in atrocious conditions, yet only 30 of those people could be helped by that allocation.

The Deputy is now seeking to develop his case.

I would confirm that from all the information I have from the health boards and voluntary agencies that £1 million was spent on the elderly, on the task force emergency basis. It was probably the best £1 million ever spent in 1982. I think my predecessor can claim credit for it.