I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 113 together.
Like many other countries in Europe, Ireland's population is ageing rapidly. At the last Census in 2011, there were approximately 535,000 people aged over 65 in the population, representing an increase of 14.4% since 2006. By 2041 there will be an estimated 1.3 million to 1.4 million people aged over 65 years, representing 20-25% of the total population. The greatest increases are expected in the over-80 years age group, where numbers are expected to increase four-fold from 110,000 in 2006 to about 440,000 in 2041.
The Programme for Government committed to completing and implementing the National Positive Ageing Strategy (NPAS). The Strategy was published and launched in April 2013 outlining Ireland's vision for ageing and older people. The Strategy contains a large number of action areas around older people's participation in society, health and social care provision, financial and physical security, and the need for an evidence-based approach to policy making. Preparations are now in train for the implementation of the National Positive Ageing Strategy and the arrangements for this implementation will be finalised as soon as possible. The needs of our older people are, and will remain, a very high priority for me and for the Government, and the resources that are available will always be applied to provide the best possible mix of supports and services.
Residential care in Ireland is provided through a mix of public, voluntary and private nursing home facilities. Most of the residents receive significant financial support towards the cost of their care under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. While there will 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 possible. Accordingly the review of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme which is currently being undertaken will consider how residential and other supports and services should be balanced in the future to support older people in ways that best meet their wishes and that make the best possible use of available resources. As a first step, in 2014 an additional €23m is being provided to strengthen community and home-based services and to develop more flexible and responsive approaches to care. This is in addition to the budget of €315m already provided for home help and home care package services which are delivered to some 56,000 people at any one time.
With the above said, the Government is acutely aware of the implications for service requirements of the projected demographic trends, and all relevant information will be taken account of in future decisions. A key priority identified in the HSE's National Service Plan for 2014 is the implementation of a Single Assessment Tool (SAT) for older people. This standardised framework will uniformly assess dependency levels, allow resources to be targeted towards those with the greatest needs and enable supports and services to be designed in the most appropriate way possible. The first phase of implementation of the SAT will commence in 2014 with a minimum of 50% of all new entries to the NHSS, Home Care Package and Home Help Schemes assessed by the SAT in the last quarter of 2014, with full implementation of SAT by the end of 2015.