The crisis in Ireland’s home help services was the main topic for hundreds of Age Action members gathered in Croke Park today for the organisation’s 23rd Annual General Meeting.
The meeting heard calls for substantial increase in funding for home help and home care services in this October’s budget.
Eamon Timmins, CEO of Age Action, said: “The HSE is spending less on home support services today than they did in 2008 despite rising demand and ever increasing numbers of older people.
“Government policy says that we must support people to stay at home as long as possible.
“Government practice is to push more and more older people into nursing homes to the point that Ireland has the second highest proportion of people aged 65 and over in nursing homes and hospitals.
“The only way this is going to change is with a substantial increase in funding for home help services in this October’s budget and Age Action members will be making sure the Government hears this message between now and October."
Spending on home help services in 2009 amounted to €211 million, which fell to €185 million last year.
A report published earlier this month by Age Action, the Alzheimer Society, the Irish Association of Social Workers and the School of Social Policy at UCD quoted frontline social workers as saying almost half of their clients could be at home if the proper supports were available.,
Mr Timmins continued: “The additional funding for home help services promised by Minister Simon Harris last week is welcome, but the reality is that even with these additional resources community care is still grossly underfunded.
“Thousands of older people are simply not getting the support they need, leaving them trapped in hospitals and nursing homes when they could, and should, be at home.
“An effective community care system needs requires ring-fenced, centralised, annual budgets. But we need to go further. The Government should start examining how we can bring in a right to community care for all older people in this country.
“People have a right to a nursing home bed; it’s time they had a right to stay home.”
The meeting also heard that in 2015 Age Action reached a record number of people with its services.
More than 28,000 home visits and DIY jobs were carried out by the organisation's Care & Repair Programme and almost 4,000 older people were trained to use computers through the Getting Started Programme.
Age Action hopes to expand these services in 2016 and members heard details of a series of new fundraising initiatives planned to support this expansion.