Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, has said that the best way to deliver home help is through a scheme similar to Fair Deal that will involve co-payment.
He told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland that despite additional funding and hours “we simply can’t keep up with demand.”
At present there is a waiting list of more than 6,000 people awaiting home help packages. The HSE this week said that budgetary constraints "may" impact their ability to provide new hours in the system.
However, Mr Daly was adamant that the scheme is not closed to new entrants. He pointed out that the budget for the home help scheme this year is €450m, up from €300m four years ago.
“That’s a 50% increase, for 2019 there are 800,000 additional home help hours, there's a total of 18 million home help hours available this year. There’s no question whatsoever of there being a freeze, or closed, the reality is today there is fewer people waiting for home help this year than there was this day last year.
“We simply cannot keep up with the demand, we increased the budget by 50% in the past four years and we still can't go any where near the demand that is there for home help.”
The Minister added that 53,000 people will avail of home help this year, the waiting time can vary, from hours, to days, up to a week, he said.
He said: "Waiting for months is not typical, there are many complications that could arise, such a medical condition, clinical aspects, availability of resources.
“On Wednesday of this week, I looked for the figures, of how many people were in hospital in Ireland on that day, waiting for home care package. The figure was 26.”
He denied that a new agreement to pay care support assistants for travel time will impact on the number of home help hours available.
“We allocated an additional €30m to the HSE to cover 800,000 additional home help hours and in addition to that the travel costs.
"The HSE have committed under the national service plan to deliver 800,000 additional home help hours over and above what they delivered last year and that is not impacted in any way, shape or form by the travel costs because they have also been accommodated in the €30m additional we gave for the Budget this year.”
He repeated that demand outstrips supply, “that's why we have a statutory scheme committed to by 2021 which will be along the lines of Fair Deal where we will deliver home help on a statute basis, guaranteed by law.
“The Fair Deal scheme is a demand-led scheme, so we have to accommodate everybody who applies for that. That's what we want to do with home help.
“So far there is no indication that we are over running our budget in any area in my remit, the challenge is to maintain that position and ensure it is kept within budget. There are 6,000 people who want home help but we have to keep within the allocated budget.
“There is a better way of delivering home help and that's why we have committed to bringing in a statutory scheme by 2021 which will actually meet the demand and will actually ensure that it is fully funded and will probably realistically involve a co-payment method where at the moment home help is 100% free at point of receipt.”