By Councillor Mick Barry
CUTBACKS IN the home help service are taking a heavy toll in human misery. Just before Christmas, Eamonn Timmins of Age Action Ireland went public on the story of a 94 year old woman who had been put on a three-year waiting list for home help services.
This example exposes the government lie that “cutbacks will not target the vulnerable” and that “frontline health services will be protected.” Despite an ageing population and increased demand for the service, HSE home help hours for January 2009 were less (998,300) than those for January 2008 (1,019,883).
Since then, home help hours were further cut by the HSE on 30 March as part of a package of €72 million in cuts, and the emergency budget is expected to target a further €275 million in cuts in health services, some of which will be passed on to the home help service. These cutbacks are so crazy that they will actually end up costing the state more than what is being “saved”.
Cuts in the home help service will drive thousands of elderly people into nursing homes where the average cost of a one week stay is now more than €1,000. In fact, some estimates indicate that up to a third of Ireland’s nursing home population (8,000 people) could survive in the community if there was enough support from community services – a powerful case for increased investment in home help services rather than cuts.