I am delighted to be given the opportunity to speak today on the issue of home care packages. As with all Members of the House, health is a constant issue at my weekly clinics. Access to vital health services is a challenge, waiting lists are increasing and securing home care is a constant struggle for many older people. Most of us like to think that when the time comes, we will have the means to care for ill or ageing family members who, given the choice, would rather be in their own homes than in a hospital or nursing home. This is where the home care package comes in. The package consists of a range of services provided by the HSE to facilitate the care of older people in their own homes. Whether it is therapy, home help, respite, transport to and from medical appointments, or day-care services, the package aims to make it easier for people to remain independent for as long as possible.
The HSE has a core provision of €324 million for home supports in 2016 and its national service plan for the year provides for a target of 10.4 million home help hours, 15,450 home care packages, 130 intensive home care packages for clients with very complex needs and a further 80 packages for clients with dementia. While I welcome this provision, the unfortunate reality is that accessing these services on the ground can be a very frustrating and protracted process. The suspension of home help hours and home care packages in February of this year has had a major impact and the effects are still being felt. On a system-wide basis, the cuts have ended up costing dearly, both financially and in terms of patient health. Increased pressure has been placed on an already creaking system through delayed discharges from hospitals and more people have being re-admitted to hospital due to inadequate supports in the community and home. Respite care is another issue. Good home care provision ideally supports both a medical and social model of care whereby both the carer and the cared-for person are supported physically with therapy, respite and home help and psychologically. It should allow the carer time to get a much needed break. Again, I have been contacted by a number of constituents this week alone who expressed their dismay that the provision of respite care at Maynooth community care centre had been reduced to two beds for the entire area. I am awaiting clarification of this via a parliamentary question I have submitted but it appears the centre is no longer allowed to use primary care beds for respite. This appears to be totally at variance with Government policy and with the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase funding for home care packages and home help every year.
Older people prefer to live in their own homes and this can be assisted by providing home care packages or home care hours and making their physical environment more suitable for their needs. However, there was a decrease of 83,346 home help hours in Kildare between 2010 and 2015. I hope the recent announcement by the Minister for Health of the Government's approval of a Revised Estimate for the Department of Health means there will be increased resources for home care services. I ask the Minister of State to be more specific on this funding. Does she agree that at minimum 2.2 million extra hours of home help and a further 3,500 home care packages for older people are required? Is that a target the Government will commit to meeting?
I also raise the issue of intensive home care packages, especially for people with dementia. Most people living with dementia and their families want to provide for their care at home. Can we step up the provision of intensive home care packages to achieve this? There is now an urgent need for the Minister for Health to deliver, as a priority, the projected increase in funding for home care packages as included in the programme for Government.