Age Action has welcomed today’s clarification by the Minister for Older People that she is not seeking any increased contribution from older people towards the cost of their nursing home beds under the Fair Deal scheme. However, Age Action remains concerned about the funding of the scheme and the impact this is having on vulnerable older people awaiting a nursing home bed.
Speaking on “Today with Sean O’Rourke” programme on RTE, Minister Kathleen Lynch clarified comments she made to the Oireachtas Health Committee yesterday. She said she was not seeking an increased contribution from older people, but increased funding from the State of €30 million per annum to enable the Fair Deal scheme to be demand-led.
When the Nursing Home Support Scheme (the so-called “Fair Deal” scheme) was launched in 2009, the State proposed to take 80% of a person’s disposable income along with a maximum of 15% of the value of other assets towards the cost of their nursing home bed. This increased to 22.5% in 2013.
Age Action is concerned that insufficient funding from the State and the capped funding for the scheme has resulted in unacceptable waiting periods for sick older people before they can access a bed.
HSE director general Tony O’Brien told yesterday’s Oirechtas committee meeting that unless additional funding was provided for the scheme in 2015, the number of older people waiting for a bed under the scheme would reach 2,200 by the end of the year, and the waiting time would increase to 20 weeks.
“The problems faced by this relatively new scheme is symptomatic of the general lack of planning and provision made by successive governments for the needs of Ireland’s current generation of older people, and future generations of older people,” Age Action Head of Advocacy and Communications Eamon Timmins said. “For example, the National Positive Ageing Strategy, published in April, 2013, has yet to be implemented.”
Age Action notes that the “Fair Deal” scheme does not cover the basic needs of some older people in nursing homes, who have to meet the cost of incontinence wear, specialised equipment and therapies from the 20% of their disposable income they are left with by the state. People assessed as being in need of a nursing home bed are facing increasing waiting periods (either in hospital beds or at home, where they are being cared for by family members or others).
Those waiting in the community are also being inadequately supported by the State. This week Age Action dealt with the case of an incontinent older man who was told he could only receive a maximum of three incontinence pads per day from the HSE. “Such inadequate support for vulnerable people in the community is not only uncaring and unhelpful, but in many cases will directly contribute to the person’s need to be admitted to a nursing home,” Mr Timmins said.
Age Action believes that people who have been approved for a nursing home bed under the Fair Deal should receive enhanced supports to assist them while they are waiting to be admitted.