From the outset, I thank everybody for their words here today. I always love to come over to the Seanad. I always find the debate very constructive and learn a lot. Hearing Senators Mullen and Blaney and Senator Doherty, the Leader of the House, who were prepared to share their personal journey with regard to dementia, makes it very real. Every day in Ireland, 11 people are diagnosed with dementia. There are probably another 11 people who are not diagnosed in Ireland every day. When I started this journey with regard to dementia, there were 55,000 people. Now, we hear there are 64,000. I will be honest in that I think there are more. Some 70% of all people in nursing homes have dementia.
As of September 2021, only one quarter of countries worldwide had a national policy strategy or plan for supporting people with dementia and their families according to the World Health Organization. It is hard to believe that it is only one quarter. In Ireland, the national dementia strategy published in December 2014 seeks to progress the dual and overarching principles of personhood and citizenship, recognising identity, resilience and dignity.
I thank the National Dementia Office for all the work it has done. I also thank the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. It would be remiss of me not to mention its former CEO, Mr. Pat McLoughlin. He has stood down for health reasons. I wish him very well. Mr. McLoughlin has worked very hard and had a great approach. I miss working with him.
One of the words that was not mentioned here today was stigma. Unfortunately, a stigma is associated with dementia. That is the point of all 28 of our dementia advisers throughout the country. The day one gets that diagnosis, whether it is one's mum, dad, aunt, uncle, or oneself, is absolutely shocking. There is a dementia adviser in every single constituency, two in some and more to come. One can pick up the phone and talk to that adviser who will signpost where one has to go. Some people have rapid onset dementia and may have to put their affairs in order very quickly. They might have to engage the service of a solicitor. It can be very difficult and to have that dementia adviser in place is very important.
Senator Black raised adult safeguarding. I am working very hard on that legislation. I will bring it into both the Dáil and Seanad before the end of the year. Significant work is involved, not only with regard to older people. I have been taking the lead on it in the Department. Considerable work will be done before I bring it to the Houses. Sometimes, the heads are brought and then considerable work has to be done. It is the reverse in this case. When I bring it, I will look forward to the debate. Senators will have to do prelegislative scrutiny on it as well. There will be significant work but considerable work is being done.
Many people spoke today about carers. It is important to acknowledge that for every one person with dementia, three carers and family members are directly affected and many more are indirectly affected. The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has done considerable work in trying to recognise carers. The caring profession will be recognised for pension status going forward. There will also be a €2 million carers' guarantee fund, provision of carers' well-being interventions and a pathway to support family carers. It is important that is put on the record.
Senator Ahearn raised work permits. I will move on to statutory home care in a few minutes. Work permits are not available. These are permits for people outside the EU. Work permits are available for people who work in nursing homes. According to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, one has to be able to guarantee someone two years work and pay him or her €27,000. Home care is a different profession. Some 75% of people who work in home care are part-timers. They may not normally earn €27,000. I have been speaking to my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy English, about that. We will look at it again.
I am lucky, as Minister of State, to have a massive budget for home care.
Last year, we were able to deliver 2.9 million more home care hours than the previous year. Some 20.5 million home care hours were delivered to 55,000 people. We are challenged at the moment, although not financially. There are not many Ministers or Ministers of State who could say they are not challenged financially. Previous Ministers did not have the budget for home care. I have the budget but what we have a shortage of at the moment is staff. That is the main challenge. Just before Christmas there were approximately 5,000 people waiting because they were funded for home care but we could not deliver it due to staffing challenges. I got new figures yesterday and that figure has dropped by 500, which is great to see. That is progress.
A strategic workforce planning group has been put in place and we held the inaugural meeting last week. It is working with all the different partners to see what we can do to make home care and caring an attractive and viable career option. A neighbour of mine is a carer. She started caring in the home and then went on to care in a nursing home. Now she is a qualified nurse in University Hospital Waterford. People can progress. They might not have had the leaving certificate results to do so at the time but there are pathways forward for everyone. We want caring to be recognised as a profession and for people to be able to upskill the whole way through their careers. There is a huge amount of work being done there to think outside the box to see how we can encourage more people into caring.
I just want to touch on dementia-specific day care centres. Some €2.5 million was made available for dementia day care centres last year. Most of that is delivered through the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Western Alzheimers. Today, 26 of the 34 centres have reopened. People ask why the rest are not open. The other eight will be open by the end of the second quarter of 2022. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland did not own all the premises. Some of them were rented facilities or halls and were not suitable for infection prevention and control measures. I am delighted to say that we will have them all back open again by the end of June.
Statutory home care so important. It is like the fair deal scheme but in the home. A huge amount of work is being done on it. It is part of the programme for Government and Sláintecare and we are fully committed to it. We are running four pilot projects at the moment to test how to bring the care into the home as opposed to only having the option of going into a nursing home. The funding has been provided for 128 assessors of need and we are currently recruiting them. However, recruitment is a challenge. There is no doubt about that. These assessors will be put in place. They will use interRAI tools to will assess people's loved ones to determine exactly what care they need. They will assess whether they have an intellectual disability, whether they are best suited to be cared for at home, or whether they need nursing home care. The national home care office will be opening in June in Tullamore, creating 15 new jobs. We will have a one-stop shop for home care. Last year, I also provided funding of €5 million for an IT system because, unfortunately, we do not currently have an IT system that follows the older person. I want a system whereby a carer can log on in the morning and see whether a person is at home, was transferred to hospital overnight, went into a nursing home or passed away. These are all key enablers to getting the statutory home care scheme up and running.
All any older person wants is to live at home safely and securely with the correct wraparound supports. That is the one thing I want to achieve if possible if I continue in this role, and that is exactly what we are trying to achieve. We have a fantastic system called the integrated care programme for older persons, which means people do not have to be sent to accident and emergency departments. Again, it is like a one-stop shop. These teams look at everything, including people's memory, frailty, whether they are at risk of falls, their gait and all the different things to see how they are doing. I also secured some funding this year to try out three pilot projects to include mental health as part of these teams. It is very difficult for some people. I again refer to the stigma. If someone is being looked after by one multidisciplinary team, they should not be told they have to go to another appointment on another day for their mental health. We want it all to happen together in the one facility, which would make life an awful lot easier for people.
I will turn briefly to brain health, which we have heard so much about today. Evidence about brain health and risk reduction is very new and still emerging. We will have to wait until we get a lot more data and information on that. This is not new for people who have dementia in their families. There is no doubt that having a happy and healthy lifestyle, being fit, reducing the amount you drink, not smoking and looking after yourself plays a big part. We all know that. That is the most important thing we can do to look after ourselves going into the future.
The national risk reduction working group has been convened by the national dementia office. A brain health project manager post will commence in 2022 to support the actions of this group and support national campaigns and programmes to incorporate dementia risk reduction. Next week, the group will run a campaign as part of brain health awareness week from 14 to 20 March and it will be the most extensive campaign to date. It is very important that we reduce the risk of dementia.
Professor Mary McCarron is just the most amazing advocate in this area. She always talks about people with Down's syndrome. There are about 700 people with Down's syndrome and dementia in Ireland who are living at home with ageing parents. I am very conscious of that, especially when it comes to funding. We made a small breakthrough this year but I hope to make a more significant breakthrough for 2023. For these ageing parents, their only worry is what will happen to their son or daughter if they pass away. It is a very complex issue.
It is great to be able to stand here knowing that I have the full support of every colleague in the House. I have the full support of the Dáil and the Seanad, the Department, the HSE, the national dementia office and the Government, which has the budget for this. We can make a difference by having everyone pull together. It can be done. I thank all the Senators for listening for so long today. I thank Senator O’Loughlin for her work in organising this debate. We have made fantastic strides in the past few years and we will continue to do so. I tell people in these situations not to be too hard on themselves. It is very difficult to have a loved one with dementia, but they are still there with you.