Pressing the Minister for Social Protection, Eamon Ó’Ciuv, in the Seanad this week on funding for carers and home help packages, Fine Gael Cork Senator Jerry Buttimer said:
Carers and home helps save the State an inordinate amount of money. Cutting back on their provision is a false economy that will heap additional pressure on our already stretched healthcare services, costing us infinitely more in the long run.
The reconfiguration and reallocation of funding for carers and home help services is causing serious distress to the elderly, as well as many family members who rely on of home care packages to help look after their loved ones.
The issue of carers and the future development and evolution of the National Carers Strategy is crucial. In the last Budget we saw a hard-hitting 4.1% cut in social welfare which had a profound impact on carers who suffered a cut of 8.80 per week, amounting to approximately 470 per year.
The contribution that carers make to the State is by no means fully recognised. Everyone buys into the idea that, where possible, more people, the elderly, sick and disabled, should be cared for in the family home in their own surroundings.
The National Carers Strategy was published to much fanfare and with many promises. Given the economic realities we face, however some of it had to be put on hold. One of the final acts of the National Economic and Social Forum was the publication of its home care study which highlighted the fact that there was no uniformity in the packages available, which are dependent upon the county or area of residence.
The Minister’s recent inflammatory and distressing remarks regarding pensions have further exacerbated people’s fears. So too has the notion of time limits being imposed on carers in respect of their duties. It is preposterous to suggest that a time limit can be put on showering, drying and dressing an 80 year old or a disabled person and highlights the Minister’s lack of understanding of the plight of those in need and those charged with their care.
Far from bearing the brunt of cuts, home care packages for home helps and carers must be augmented and supported. This issue must be viewed as a needs rather than a resource driven one. I understand resources are finite, but if we are serious about caring for those who need us most, the Government must give a firm commitment to support home helps and carers and back-off cuts into the future.