Laois councillors seek more in budget for home helps A

Health Budget

By Lynda Kiernan @laoisnews

Laois councillors have written to the Minister for Health and then Minister for Finance to ask for more money for the home help services in today's Budget.

There is “not an hour to be got” for people needing a Home Help visitor in Laois, says Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald.

At the September council meeting, she won the backing of fellow councillors to write to the Department of Health and children and demand extra money for the provision of the service in the next government budget.

“It’s very serious out there, there’s not an hour to be got for people who are elderly or have disabilities. I ask you to write to the Minister for Health and the Minister for Finance,” she said.

Providing home helps saves the government money Cllr Fitzgerald explained.

“It is such ridiculous budgeting, because if you give people home help, it keeps them longer in the home, but there is no budget there for it. The service is deplorable,” Cllr Fitzgerald said.

She was seconded by Cllr Brendan Phelan.

“Giving a person a half hour of home help is ridiculous. After a couple of weeks when they still need help, they are told they don’t qualify. Any bit of pressure is positive,” he said.

Cllr Willie Aird also backed Cllr Fitzgerald.

“People that were getting an hour are now getting a half hour. You won’t do a lot in half an hour. I think they are penny pinching in the wrong area,” he said.

Cllr Paschal McEvoy said he has a constituent who applied three months ago to receive one hour a day of home help.

“They are on a waiting list. This person had a stroke. There are waiting lists now for carers, it’s a crazy situation,” he said.

Meanwhile Laois County Council's letter to the Department of Social Protection asking for a shorter waiting time for the carers' allowance, received a reply which did not satisfy.

Cllr Aird was unhappy that the reply showed that”the position hasn't changed”.

“It can take six months plus for someone to receive a carers allowance. It shouldn't take more than three weeks,” he said.

He said urgent care can be needed.

“A person can get a fall today, and be out of hospital tomorrow and need care immediately. Nobody should be allowed to take six months to process an application,” he said.

Earlier this year the HSE confirmed that because of pressures on hospital emergency departments last spring, it had to over-spend on home help and home care packages in order to free up beds.

To avoid going massively over-budget at the end of the year - estimated to be around €14m by the Department of Health it then had to cut home help spending, leaving more people waiting longer for home supports.

In the western health region, home care packages have been suspended altogether, while cutbacks are also reported in the eastern area.

The HSE set a target this year to deliver 10.4m home help hours, and offer home care packages to 15,450. An additional €20m was allocated for home care this year.