The Taoiseach promised in page 6 of the programme for Government:
Investment in the supply of more and better care for older people in the community and in residential settings will be a priority for this Government. Additional funding will be provided each year for the care of older people. The funding will go to more residential places, more home care packages and the delivery of more home help and other professional community care services.
The reality on the ground is very different from the promises and commitments he made. A cut of 600,000 home help hours was announced earlier this year and that has been followed by a cut of €8 million in the budget for the service, which will take out another 450,000 hours. This amounts to approximately 1 million hours in what is clearly a cold and callous cut by this Government.
The Older and Bolder organisation, a respectable and reputable body engaged in supporting people in terms of their care needs, has a significant campaign under way to identify the views of people on the ground regarding the impact of these cuts. I will quote one or two of them who wrote to the Taoiseach. One states:
I note from my inquiries on behalf of a relative that there appears to be no home help currently available to elderly in the community no matter how vulnerable. This needs to change.
As a carer for my 81 year old mother, I can see the difference that being at home has done her even though she is in total heart failure. I believe she would be gone a long time if she was in a home or a hospital ... I hope that your Government will keep all their promises and home helps in place so that my mother can enjoy the quality of life that she now has.
By any yardstick or objective, it is accepted that home help and care in the community is essential in dealing with and helping older people to have a decent quality of life. Can the Taoiseach indicate why there is such a gulf between the language contained in the programme for Government and the decisions his Government has taken regarding home help? Does he intend to review the programme for Government in light of the yawning gap between the two?