Speeches

Speech for Minister Brady for the Opening of the Caring for Carer’s Respite Weekend

Introduction:

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. I was delighted to accept Mary McMahon’s kind invitation to open your conference. This respite weekend is an opportunity for you to relax, renew friendships and share experiences. It is a privilege for me to be associated with an event which recognises the valuable work that you do.

I am very much aware of the valuable role played by carers in the support and maintenance of dependent relatives or friends, be they older people, those with disabilities or people who are chronically or terminally ill. Caring for people who are frail or ill not only requires a wide range of skills, it also requires an ability to empathise with individuals who require assistance at times when they may be feeling vulnerable, stressed and frustrated.

The role of carer, while it may be very rewarding, can be a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job. Caring can extract a great cost, be it emotional, physical or financial, from the person providing that care.

Caring for Carers Ireland

Caring for Carers, plays an important role in supporting you. The organisation aims to promote the health, wellbeing and quality of life for family carers and those for whom they care. Their work is governed by the principles of the Carer’s Charter which provides a clear statement of your rights.

I am full of admiration for the work of voluntary organizations and I cannot but be impressed by the range of work undertaken, on behalf of carers, by Caring for Carers. Newsletters, training programmes, conferences and respite services are just a few examples of the range of services provided. All of these initiatives are evidence of your desire to make a real difference to carers and their families.

Caring for Carers has been to the forefront in highlighting the needs of carers and I believe it has been very successful in raising public awareness as to how these needs can be best met. Furthermore, it has been instrumental in fostering and sustaining bonds of friendship and understanding, by providing a support base where individual carers can meet, share experiences and discuss issues of mutual concern.

Government Policy:

Family carers are a valuable resource in our society and in our health system. The Government is committed to ensuring you receive a comprehensive range of services to enable you to continue to care.

For many, as we get older, our first choice is to remain living at home in the communities which we are part of, rooted to and familiar with. This is reflected in the Government’s continued development of community-based services for older persons. There have been unprecedented levels of investment in this sector– just over €200 million additional funding has been provided for new service developments in recent years. This includes, not withstanding our overall economic pressures, an additional €10m provided in Budget 2010 to expand the Home Care Package Initiative nationally. As you will appreciate Home Care Packages can include a respite element at local level, in partnership between the HSE and certain voluntary providers.

However, when living at home is no longer possible, it is equally important that older people have access to the best possible residential care available. The Government is committed to ensuring that quality nursing home care is available to all who need it. Two key initiatives in this regard are the new Nursing Homes Support Scheme which will address issues of access and affordability and the Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People which will address the issue of quality.

Fair Deal:

As you will be aware by now, the Nursing Homes Support Scheme- A Fair Deal came into operation on 27th October last year. The Scheme is designed to remove real financial hardship from many individuals and their families who, under the current system of Nursing Home Subvention, have to sell or re-mortgage homes to pay for the cost of nursing home care. Under the new scheme, there will be one transparent system of support towards the cost of care that will be fair to all, irrespective of whether they are in public or private nursing homes. I understand Paschal Moynihan of the HSE will address the details and method of application for the scheme tomorrow.

Standards:

The second major development in the area of nursing home care is the new National Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People which were launched by Minister Harney on March 9th 2009.

The Standards provide a blueprint for the provision of a higher standard of care delivered against a set of understood and developed criteria and are designed to improve and enhance care and to recognise good practice. All nursing homes for older people will be subject to the same core standards in relation to quality and safety.

Regulations were introduced to underpin these Standards with effect from 1st July last year to allow the Chief Inspector of Social Services to register and inspect all centres providing long-term residential care both public and private.

Positive Ageing Strategy:

As Minister, my duties involve overall responsibility for the Office for Older People. This Office reinforces most clearly the commitment of the Government to enhancing the lives of our senior citizens. A key function of my Office is to develop a National Positive Ageing Strategy. This will take forward the commitment in the Programme for Government ‘to better recognise the position of older people in Irish Society’.

My goal is to develop a meaningful and innovative strategy that will result in real improvement in the lives of older people

Last June, I issued a call for submissions on the Positive Ageing Strategy and I am delighted with the response. In total we received 186 submissions from a broad range of agencies and organisations as well as individual older people from all over Ireland. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Caring for Carers for their contribution to this process.

To further progress the development of the Strategy I will shortly begin a series of face-to-face meetings around the country to hear at first hand the views of older people on issues that affect them.

Conclusion:

Ladies and gentlemen I would like to thank you once again for your warm welcome here this evening and to wish you an enjoyable and informative weekend.