I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 15 together.
I am taking these questions on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, who is at a dementia conference today. Improving access to home support is a priority for the Government. Over the past four years, we have seen a considerable increase of nearly €140 million in the budget, which has grown from €306 million in 2015 to almost €446 million this year. This year the HSE intends to provide 17.9 million home support hours to 53,000 people and intensive home care packages to 235 people.
The Deputy is right to highlight this issue because despite this significant level of increased investment in service provision, demand for home support continues to grow and will only go in one direction as, thankfully, people continue to live longer. The allocation of funding for home supports across the system, though significant, is finite and services must be delivered within the funding available. This is the challenge we need to grapple with. Preliminary data indicate that at the end of March, there were 52,360 people in receipt of home support. During the first quarter of the year, 4.2 million hours were delivered nationally, 4,411 new clients commenced the service and 6,238 people were assessed. I will arrange to have the specific information requested by both Deputies forwarded in tabular form.
I acknowledge that in some cases access to the service may take longer than we would like. However, the HSE has assured my Department that those people who are on a waiting list are reviewed, as funding becomes available, to ensure that individual cases continue to be dealt with on a priority basis. If Deputy Durkan comes across cases which he believes have not been assessed in that manner, he should let me know.
We need a new statutory home support scheme. We all talk about wanting to provide care for people in their homes and communities. The only law we have passed is the fair deal, the nursing home support scheme. We need to do a fair deal 2.0, a version of the scheme for home care. My colleague, Deputy Daly, who is leading on that, has just concluded a very substantial public consultation where many thousands of submissions were made. He intends to develop that scheme and the system of regulation to try to improve access on an affordable and sustainable basis because, as our population ages, that is the way we need to deal with this.