I thank the Deputy for her question. As she rightly pointed out, she was part of a process that took place in April 2014. Following the Labour Court recommendations, the HSE implemented the new contracts for HSE home-help staff with the agreement of SIPTU.
At the end of April 2016, 33% of the target of 10.4 million home-help hours set in the HSE's national service plan had been delivered.
The HSE and SIPTU agreed a revised contract for those providing home help to be operational from April 2014 under the auspices of the Labour Court. This provides that the relevant employees are paid in full for their contracted hours. However, where the hours they actually work drop below this, usually because of the changing needs of those in receipt of the service, the difference in hours, as the Deputy rightly pointed out, is banked on the understanding it will be worked at a later stage.
This concept of banked hours is subject to quarterly review to ensure that excessive banked hours do not build up. That normally comes into play when there are more than 100 hours. Of the 6,900 part-time workers providing home help in January 2016, 67 workers, mainly in Cork and Kerry, had banked 100 hours or more. In these cases, steps are taken to reduce the build-up, including by working relief for other home-help workers. Contracted hours can be reduced for various reasons, including the preference of individual workers, availability of transport and the need for particular skills. As reductions in contract hours for individual home helps are not collated nationally, unfortunately, I will not be able to give the Deputy some of the figures she has requested.
The HSE will continue to work to apply available resources to most effectively target those with the greatest need and to provide the best possible contribution to the system as a whole. Home-support services are provided on the basis of assessed health-care need and regularly reviewed. Services are being stretched by demands from more people, and for more hours at times outside of core hours, in the evenings and at weekends, all of which cost more. I am happy to say that the Government has been able to respond to this by providing an extra €40 million for home care in 2016. Not only will this ensure that the home-support services provided in 2015 are maintained but it will also ensure they are increased.