I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 21 together.
My Department are currently consulting interested bodies about the recommendations of the Report of the Working Party on Services for the Elderly entitled The Years Ahead — A policy for the Elderly.
Health boards will shortly be invited to prepare detailed plans to implement the recommendations of the report for submission to my Department. These plans will form the basis for improving services for the elderly in coming years, including the extension of home nursing services for the elderly. Some recommendations of the report, particularly those concerning improved co-ordination of services, can be implemented without additional resources. Others will be implemented as resources permit.
The Government have agreed to introduce new legislation to provide for the licensing and registration of nursing homes and to provide a new framework for subventing nursing homes by health boards. Draft legislation is being prepared by the parliamentary draftsman at present.
The vast majority of elderly persons are cared for by their families at home. Deputy Keating may be referring to the financial hardship of persons who care for elderly relatives on a full-time basis and who have no independent income. One of the recommendations of the recent Working Party Report on Services for the Elderly was that "the recommendation of the Commission on Social Welfare, that carers be entitled to claim social assistance in their own right and that such entitlement should replace the Prescribed Relative Allowance, should be implemented". This recommendation is being pursued with the Department of Social Welfare.