Fair Deal extension will prove ‘very difficult’

Age Action says it is difficult to see how the Fair Deal scheme can be extended to include home care.

Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Helen McEntee, favours the option of extending the scheme to include home help.

“There needs to be, in my own view, a similar model for home help as there is for the Fair Deal,” the Meath East TD said.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner Ms McEntee said it was an issue that needed to be worked on and felt the will was there.

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme, also known as the “Fair Deal”, provides financial support to people who need long-term nursing home care.

Age Action, a charity that promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people, agreed with Ms McEntee that the current crisis in community care needed to be tackled.

However, its head of advocacy and communications, Justin Moran, warned that extending the Fair Deal scheme to allow people receive care in their home would be extremely challenging. 

“We need immediate investment in community care and to go further by examining how we can bring in a right to community care for all older people in this country. It's hard to see how that can be done using the Fair Deal model,” said Mr Moran.

Ms McEntee, said the provision of care for an increasing elderly population needed to be prioritised, and she favoured the extension of the Fair Deal scheme for those people wanting to remain at home.

She said ways would have to be found to get around some “hurdles” and “legal aspects” of the scheme that calculates how much older people should pay towards their residential care based on their income and assets. 

A report by Age Action published in June found that community supports for older people were disorganised, fragmented and underfunded.

It revealed that social workers nationally estimated that half of the older people they worked with who were in long-term residential care could be at home if the appropriate services were available.

Speaking earlier on RTÉ radio, Mr Moran said Age Action agreed with Ms McEntee that the issue of community care needed to be tackled quickly.

But, he said, the most obvious problem was that older people who qualified for the Fair Deal scheme agreed to a 7.5% levy on their home for the first three years.

Mr Moran said older people in residential care did not need their home so it could be sold off or rented out to help them with the payments.

He pointed out that most people currently getting home help were not paying for it and wondered would they be required to make co-payments in future if Fair Deal was extended to include home care.

Also, the medical assessment that older people have to undergo to quality for Fair Deal was to confirm that people needed nursing home care because of their level of dependence. People getting home help would not have a similar degree of dependency.

Home and Community Care Ireland spokesperson, Michael Harty, said making home care part of Fair Deal would be "a very positive move". The organisation representing 25 private home care providers wants home care to be put on a statutory footing and regulated in the same way as residential care.

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