Fears for elderly after home-helps cut by 10 percent
THERE are fears that hundreds of local vulnerable people have been left to fend themselves after it was revealed that the local health board has cut the number of home helps by 136.
The Southern Trust has axed its home help staff by just under 10 percent from 1,534 in 2010 to 1,398 last year.
The Southern Trust currently provides support to 5,000 people who require some level of home care, including domicillary care or personal care. Home help staff provide care from cleaning and laundry to bathing and preparing meals.
The figures were released in the latest Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (HSC) Workforce Survey.
It comes after the Department of Health and Social Services announced that a total of 216 meals-on-wheel services have been cut to local people.
According to DUP MLA Lord Maurice Morrow, cuts to home-helps and meals-on-wheels will put vulnerable lives at risk.
He said: “It is difficult enough for many of those who require home-help services, not just from a support perspective but from a social angle.
“I have many constituents who are elderly and frail, as well as others who are profoundly disabled and they suffer from a degree of isolation. The services of a home help for many, are a lifeline.
“In addition, home helps provide an invaluable service without which some people simply could not continue to live independently in their own homes. That is a vital part of maintaining the rights of the elderly or disabled, and it is a fundamental principle to allow them to remain in their own homes, where and for as long as is possible.
“Sadly when the care costs pass a certain threshold, some people have to go into residential care.
“But it is crucial those who benefit from home help services are aware they must be properly and professionally re-assessed before any cuts or changes can be imposed.
“The former Health Minister caused drastic cuts in home-help services which left vulnerable people virtually abandoned, not to mention extremely distressed. A large number of constituents contacted my office and with assistance from the Southern Health & Social Care Trust senior staff, the majority had their home-help services re-instated on some level.
“The current Health Minister has stated he wants to see more people staying in their own homes with assistance, as this has been shown to impact more favourably on health and general well-being. Indeed the Minister has made this one of his main focuses.”
Commenting on the cuts, Brendan Whittle, Assistant Director for Older People’s Services with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said: “Over recent years the Trust has modernized and reformed its domiciliary care workforce to ensure that it provides a quality service fit to meet people’s needs.
“Whilst there has been a reduction in the total head count this has been balanced with a much more stable workforce. The level of staff turnover has reduced with retention levels of domiciliary care workers remaining high.
“The Trust has worked to move away from a casual workforce to a workforce where staff have guaranteed hours and improved terms and conditions of employment.”