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Almost 1,000 people added to the waiting list for home help hours since March

As of the end of June, 7,217 people are waiting on home support packages in the country.

Image: Shutterstock/Fotoluminate LLC

ALMOST 1,000 more people are waiting on home help hours since March of this year, according to the latest HSE figures. 

As of the end of June, 7,217 people are waiting on home support packages in the country. 

The increase represents an increase of 398 since the end of May of this year, when the figure stood at 6,819 people. 

There has been a notable rise in the numbers on the wait list with HSE figures showing there were 6,238 people waiting for home support packages in March.

The figures show that since March, the numbers waiting on home support packages has increased by 979 people.

The nationwide figure represents patients who have been assessed and approved for home support, but cannot be facilitated as funding is not immediately available. 

TheJournal.ie reported earlier this week that the number of people waiting in each county varies dramatically, leading to Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly describing the system as a “post-code lottery” with who is left waiting depending on where they live, the population in that area and the resources allocated in each community. 

Advocacy group, Family Carers Ireland, agreed that a postcode lottery exists in Ireland, referencing new research published this week by the ESRI.

The organisation which represents carers said the research provides further evidence that a postcode lottery exists for family carers whereby where you live determines what supports you can or cannot access, adding that it reinforces Family Carers Ireland’s call for a €110 million increase in the home supports budget in Budget 2020.

The ESRI report on the supply of 10 primary and community care services, based on data from 2014, finds that the “considerable” regional inequalities, which the group said cannot be explained on the basis of need. 

Family carers in Dublin South, Clare, Waterford, Kildare, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath, Wicklow, Kilkenny and Mayo are particularly impacted by the postcode lottery in the provision of home care hours for those aged 65 and over with supply at least 10% below the national average, they said. 

TDs have been telling the government that the HSE has effectively closed the home help scheme for all new entrants. They say they are hearing it day in, day out from their constituents at their clinics.

The HSE has denied this but said local managers had been told to stay in line with their budgets.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the HSE said in 2019 it expects to provide 17.9 million home support hours to 53,000 people.

“Despite the significant level of service provision, the demand for Home Support continues to grow. The main reason for increased demand relates to the increase in demographics of older people; as the number of people over 65 increases, so too does the demand for new and additional home care supports as people become more dependent,” a spokesperson added.

They acknowledged that nationally, at the end of June 2019, the number of clients assessed and waiting on funding for home support for both new and additional services was 7,217.

In June, 8,342 new clients commenced a home support service, according to the HSE, and an increase of 251,589 hours this year compared to 2018.

The HSE maintained that the majority of those awaiting funding are in their own home, many of whom are already in receipt of home support but are awaiting funding for additional support.

“All those waiting for Home Support are assessed and provided with a new or additional service as soon as possible. People being discharged from acute hospitals, who can return home with supports, are prioritised,” said the statement.

The statement goes on to say that this year the HSE began implementing a revised agreement with home support staff which involves payment of travel and travel time to relevant staff.

“Each Community Health Care Organisation is required to reconfigure rosters to ensure that service provision is maximised, allowing travel time to be funded, and this process is now well underway. Additional funding in respect of travel was included in the 2019 budget,” said the HSE.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty has previously raised the issue of transport cost of home helps (home help providers are now being paid for the time it takes to travel between clients).

He said the implementation of that change represents a cut of 1,000 hours per week. 

At a recent Oireachtas committee, chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid accepted additional requests for services for home help are putting significant pressures on the system.

However, one of his main tasks is getting the overall health budget under control. 

“We cannot sustain the level of overrun which happened last year,” he said. 

Reid said a certain budget was allocated to home help hours for this year, and the HSE would not be breaching it. 

The HSE statement to this publication said that “managers now need to ensure that their level of service provision is in line with their budget, their delivery plan and the National Service Plan” and admitted that this may have a knock on impact in the level of new hours being provided.

To achieve this local managers must ensure that the total number of hours being provided does not exceed targeted levels. This may impact on their ability to provide new hours into the system.
It is not correct to say that no new clients will be allocated home help hours for the next five months. The allocation of new hours will be based on client’s needs and the resources available.

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