Press Release

Tánaiste commits to “new thinking, new policies and new practices’ in services for older people

Substantial increase in home care packages and a change in the nursing home subvention means test pledged

Speaking to the NESF Forum plenary session on long term care at the Royal Kilmainham Hospital today (Wednessday), the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D. said,

“It is time for new thinking, new policies and new practices on services for our senior citizens.

“A key priority is supporting people to stay in their own homes and communities and moving away from the practise of placing people in residential care as a first option.

“Currently, we do not offer enough support to high dependency patients who want to remain at home. I am determined to change this and I expect we shall see a major increase in Home Care Packages this winter as a cornerstone of new thinking and new policies on long term care.

“When we say that we want to support people at home, we must ensure this means a practical reality in the eyes of patients and their families. The incentives and the supports must be aimed at home care.”

The Tánaiste said that about 28% of residents or about 5,000 people in long-stay beds were in low to medium dependency categories, and many of these could be cared for in their homes with the appropriate level of supports.

In terms of residential care, she stated that new ways of delivering services had to be examined. This could include service level agreements between the HSE and the private sector if the cost justified it.

The Tánaiste also said she would soon be changing the means test for Nursing Home Subvention. “At present under this scheme, a home that is valued at about €95,000 in the context of qualifying for a subvention is enough to negate the value of the subvention. This is ridiculous when the average cost of a second-hand home in Dublin is over €400,000. I intend soon to increase these assessment levels to make the application process more realistic.”

She confirmed that she and the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Seamus Brennan T.D. would soon bring new policies to government dealing with long term care.

“We are working towards a sustainable policy that will mean, first, services will be available for all who need them based on dependency levels and, second, there will be a fair sharing of long term care costs between families and the State – something for which there is considerable public support and acceptance.”