Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Questions (196)

Terence Flanagan


196. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health in view of the fact that the cost of living is rising for older persons with cuts being introduced to the household benefits package, an increase in passport fees for older people, an increase in prescription charges and so on, the initiatives that have been introduced since 2011 by his Department to improve the standard of living for older persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14299/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The National Positive Ageing Strategy is the overarching blueprint for age-related policy and service delivery across Government and society in the years ahead. It aims to address the opportunities and challenges associated with ageing at both an individual and societal level and across the full range of policy areas in a well-thought out, coherent and inclusive way. It notes that in light of realistic resource expectations, all Government Departments and agencies, local Government and institutions should review the effectiveness of existing policies, services and supports with a view to identifying whether inefficiencies in provision exist and how they can be addressed. They must refocus and adapt existing services rather than establish new ones. Maximising value for money and cost effectiveness in the funding and operation of services for a more-coordinated and effective use of the resources currently invested is the priority.

The Government is pursuing an ambitious programme of reform for our health sector, including in social care and care for older people. We want a health service that is patient-centred, whether that patient is young or old. The Nursing Homes Support Scheme continues to be an extremely generous support for those who need long-term residential care. The budget for the Scheme in 2014 is €939m and the HSE’s National Service Plan for 2014 sets a target of 22,061 people to be in receipt of financial support towards the cost of long-term nursing home care in December 2014. An Implementation Plan for the Positive Ageing Strategy is currently being prepared.

While there will of course always be a need for long-term residential care, older people have consistently said that they want to be facilitated and supported to stay in their own homes and communities for as long as it is viable for them to do so, and it is Government policy to develop this approach. Accordingly in 2014 there is an enhanced focus on home and community supports. Provision for community and home-based services are being strengthened by €23m to allow more people to stay in their own homes for longer. This is in addition to the budget of €315m provided for home help and home care package services which are delivered to some 56,000 people at any one time.