Services For Older People Under Threat, Say Groups

Services which enable older people remain living in their own homes are in serious trouble in many areas due to underfunding, it was claimed today.

Information gathered by social workers and other health professionals has found that funding for the HSE’s home help service is available in just one of 22 areas for which data was available, and home help hours had been cut in four areas and there were waiting lists in 16 areas, according to the Irish Association of Social Workers and Age Action.

The survey also found that no funding was available for new home care packages in eight of the 20 areas surveyed. In addition, older people were waiting for existing home care recipients to die or go into long-term care to get packages in seven areas.

“Month by month it seems to be getting worse,” said John Brennan, chair of the Irish Association of Social Workers Special Interest Group on Ageing.

“People who already have a service are now under pressure in different areas to reduce that service. That means that people who otherwise could have lived at home will now be pushed into long-term care. In doing so, they will be pushed into the acute hospital system which is already in trouble, because that is the only way to access a public long-term care bed.”

Mr Brennan said the problems being experienced flew in the face of long-standing Government policy to enable older people to live at home with dignity and independence.

“The bottom line is that we need to properly fund community care services,” Mr Brennan said. “We need to re-position funding away from acute and institutional care and towards community and primary care.”

Age Action said the survey highlighted the patchy provision around the country of essential services for older people.

“It is unacceptable that an older person living in Kildare-West Wicklow could be denied these supports because the lack of local resources, yet a person with identical needs living in Mayo could receive the services they need,” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said.