Written Answers. - Care of the Elderly.

Michael Ring

Question:

518 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when he will increase the subvention for private nursing homes as the shortfall in the subvention rate causes severe financial hardship to relatives nationwide. [19345/00]

Under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990, the health boards provide subvention to assist persons in meeting the costs of nursing home care. However, it was never intended that subventions would meet the full costs involved.

There are three rates of subvention payable – £70, £95 and £120 – in accordance with three levels of dependency, medium, high and maximum. The amount of funding allocated to supporting older people in private nursing homes has been significantly increased by this Government in recent years. For example, over £5 million in additional funding has been allocated in the current year to provide for an increase in the number of people in receipt of subventions, their higher levels of dependency, resulting in more people receiving the higher rates of subventions, and the change in the regulations whereby the ability of adult sons and-or daughters over 21 years of age to contribute, is no longer taken into account. The amount made available for the scheme this year is £38.4 million.

The Government's priority this year is to ensure that health boards have adequate resources to meet increasing demands on the scheme. I am keeping under review the scope that exists for effecting further improvements in the scheme. The question of increasing rates of subvention will be kept under review in light of the availability of funding and competing priorities.