Home supports enable older people to remain in their own homes and communities, as well as facilitating timely discharge from hospital. The Government has made improved access to home support services a priority. Progress is reflected in the additional funding made available in recent years with the budget growing from €306 million in 2015 to almost €446 million in 2019.
In 2018, the total budget for the service was €416.8 million, providing 17.5 million hours. This year the HSE intends to provide over 18.2 million home support hours, including intensive home care packages, to over 53,000 people. In 2019 almost €30 million has been added to the home support budget and 800,000 more hours of support will be provided compared to the original 2018 target.
Preliminary information for end of May indicates that 52,620 people were in receipt of home support hours, including intensive packages for those with complex care needs, such as dementia. Between January and May over 7.3 million hours were delivered with 7,200 new clients granted home supports.
Despite this significant level of provision, demand for home support continues to grow and about 6,800 people have been assessed and are waiting for either new or additional services. People on the waiting list are reviewed, as funding becomes available, to ensure that individual cases continue to be dealt with on a priority basis within the available resources. The level of service provision must be in line with the HSE’s budget, delivery plan and the National Service Plan.
I acknowledge that in some cases access to the service may take longer than we would like. However, the HSE has assured the Department that people on the waiting list are reviewed, as funding becomes available, to ensure that individual cases continue to be dealt with on a priority basis within the available resources and as determined by the local front line staff who know and understand the clients’ needs, and who undertake regular reviews of those care needs to ensure that the services being provided remain appropriate.
While the existing home support service is delivering crucial support to many people across the country, it needs to be improved to better meet the changing needs of our citizens.
The Department of Health is currently developing plans for a new statutory scheme and system of regulation for home support services. The Sláintecare Implementation Strategy commits to the introduction of the new scheme in 2021.