Speech by Minister Brady at the official opening of the newly refurbished Elphin Day Care Centre
Good afternoon everyone. I am delighted to be here with you for the official opening of your newly refurbished Day Care Centre. I would like, in particular, to thank Christine Sheehy for her kind invitation to attend. I always welcome an opportunity to meet with older people in local communities, and with those providing services on their behalf. The facilities available here in Elphin are a testament to the dedication and hard work of your community in the past, and to your collective vision and commitment for the future.
The changing demographics of Irish society have been visible in many ways in recent years. Our population has been growing more rapidly than at any time since the foundation of the State. Estimates for 2009 show an unprecedented rise of nearly 18% over the previous decade. The population of those aged over-65 is estimated to almost triple over the next 30 years.
The increasing number of older people, as a proportion of the population, represents both challenges and opportunities for all of us. This process will undoubtedly have wide ranging implications for all strands of society, including providing quality health and long-term care. This demographic trend highlights the need to plan appropriately for the future delivery of services to older people, thus supporting in a practical way the roles they have played, and continue to play, as part of our nation.
As Minister for Older People, I am committed to working in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies to improve the quality of care for older people. My aim is to ensure that the vision of a unified approach to the challenges and opportunities presented by our ageing population is realised, and that older people receive the maximum support and encouragement to enhance their lives, and society as a whole.
Strategy for Positive Ageing
In my capacity as Minister, I have responsibility for a wide range of policies and services relating to older people. One of my current priorities is to complete the National Positive Ageing Strategy. This important new Strategy will set the overall direction for future policies, programmes and services for older people. These obviously transcend several Government Departments and agencies, and often have been developed, and delivered, in relative isolation. There is no doubt in my mind that significant potential exists to pull these together, and deliver them in a much more effective way than has been the case up to now. My goal is to develop a meaningful and innovative Strategy that will result in real improvements to the lives of older people.
I commenced the initiative through a public consultation process, which began with requests for written submissions in June 2009. More recently, I undertook a series of regional consultation meetings with older people, and service providers, around the country.
This is the first time that there has been such a wide ranging consultation between Government and older people in Ireland, and I must say that the response proved very good and beneficial in terms of honing the Strategy.
The overarching aim of Government policy is to help and support older people to remain at home for as long as possible. Recent years have seen dramatic changes in both the concept and practice of services for older people. This includes, for example the introduction of initiatives on the long-term residential care side such as the Nursing Homes Support Scheme – or “Fair Deal” – and new regulations in relation to such centres. Enormous strides have also been made in developing comprehensive, community-based services to facilitate the objective of best meeting the needs of older people.
There have been unprecedented levels of investment in this particular area with, for example, just over €200 million additional funding provided for new service developments in recent years. This includes, notwithstanding the budgetary and economic pressures facing the Government in recent times, an extra €10m revenue funding provided this year to expand the Home Care Package Initiative nationally.
These multidisciplinary packages are relatively new in the Irish Home Care context; and include a broad range of services such as Nurses, Home Care Attendants, Home-Helps and various Therapists as required. The flexibility and responsiveness of such packages, and of other Home Care or Day Care services for each individual, will be augmented over the coming months by the HSE. This arises from an independent Evaluation of Home Care Packages undertaken by the Department last year, with the aim of bringing greater standardisation and other operational improvements to Home Care services undertaken by the Executive.
I would like to take this opportunity also to acknowledge and recognize the key role of the Community & Voluntary sector across the country in supporting older people. It is more important than ever, given the challenges we face, that the State continues to work closely in partnership with this sector, and indeed with private providers, to deliver modern quality services to our older population.
A centre such as this is a vital cog in the wider provision of such services. The facility in Elphin is long established, and has been deservedly recognised for the benefits it has brought to this part of Roscommon. It will continue to be a focal point for the community, and meet local needs in an effective and practical way.
In conclusion, I want to congratulate everybody associated with this new project and to wish you all every success in the future.