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Age Action calls for urgent coordinated national response to looming homecare crisis

Published 14/04/2020

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(14 April 2020) Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people, today called on the Minister for Health to ensure there is a nationally coordinated response to manage the impact of COVID-19 on home care provision.

It is expected that up to 3,000 home care workers may be deployed to nursing home settings in the coming weeks to support the COVID-19 response measures which means that some people are being told that their home supports are being reduced or suspended.

Paddy Connolly, CEO of Age Action said, ‘We already have a home care system that is under-resourced and depends on the efforts of 195,000 family carers. Withdrawing home care supports from a system that supports hundreds of thousands of people in order to fill a gap in nursing homes for 31,000 people makes no sense and will cause a crisis in home care provision. The State needs to put in place adequate measures to protect and support all older people regardless of their location.’

Home care supports are health and social care services, administered by HSE staff or contracted providers, which help older people, with varying degrees of frailty, thereby supporting their choice and preference to remain living in their own homes as opposed to residential care.

Paddy Connolly cited concern about the arbitrary withdrawal of home supports without appropriate assessment or planning saying ‘We are aware of one situation where a couple, both aged over 70, both cocooning and both wheelchair users who had their full home support withdrawn with no assessment and no conversation with them.’

‘It is unacceptable that people are being left at risk and without information as their home care is withdrawn with immediate effect. It is causing unnecessary fear among people whose health is compromised and placing considerable strain on their families, leaving many people in an unsafe situation at a time of crisis’ Connolly said.

Commenting on the existing weaknesses in the provision of home care Paddy Connolly said ‘There is little value placed on both the care of older people and the frontline workers providing that care. The COVID-19 crisis has shown the disparity in how we value home care versus institutionalised care. It has laid bare the weaknesses in the provision of home care and highlighted the urgent need for Government to plan for an integrated care pathway which includes both care in the home and in residential settings’ he said.

 

 

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Age Action is calling for a Digital Allowance to support the Digital Inclusion of Older People and a Study on the Cost of Ageing in Budget 2021

(30 July 2020) 

Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation on ageing and older people is calling for Budget 2021 to include a digital allowance in the form of a €2.50 increase to the Telephone Support Allowance and a broadening of the eligibility criteria to support older people to access digital technology.

Paddy Connolly, CEO Age Action said ‘Digital exclusion is a reality for at least 33% of people over the age of 65 with the associated cost being one of the barriers to access for older people. We know that communication costs have increased during COVID-19 as people became more reliant on digital communications as a means of communicating with family, health professionals, arranging essential services and addressing social isolation.  In the context of an increasing reliance on telehealth measures and public health advice, Age Action urges the Government to increase the Telephone Support Allowance, introduced in June 2018 at a weekly rate of €2.50, to €5 and for a broadening of the eligibility criteria which is narrowly confined to those getting the Living Alone Allowance who are also eligible for the Fuel Allowance.’

Government services now actively prefer transactions to be digital under a “Digital First”approach, encouraging people to carry out their tax returns, and apply to r enew their driving licences and passports online. The Public Service ICT Strategy prioritises the digitisation of ‘the main existing citizen and business transactional services across Public Services’. There is an increasing reliance on digital channels to provide information by both the public and private sector which undermines people’s ability to access information which was very evident during the height of the pandemic. In a recent CSO survey of households of those over 60 and not online, the second greatest challenge to people who said they needed access to broadband, after lack of digital skills, was the perceived prohibitive cost.

‘Older people are being left behind because they do not have adequate access or skills to engage with digital services or participate in the digital economy; providing a digital allowance as well as investing in one-to-one digital literacy training that meets the needs of older people, is critical to bridging the digital divide. The new National Digital Skills Strategy committed to under the Programme for Government will have budgetary implications; Budget 2021 should begin to support older people to keep up’ Connolly said.