Dáil Éireann - Volume 472 - 04 December, 1996

Written Answers. - Home Help Services.

90. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for Health the amount of money provided in the Western Health Board budget in 1996 for the provision of home help services; the comparative figures in each of the years 1994 and 1995; the number of home helps employed in each of these years; the rate of pay per hour; if he will respond to the concerns expressed that the number of hours have been curtailed proportionate to the 100 per cent increase in hourly wages paid to home help; if he will ensure that the number of hours provided to each individual recipient in 1995, whose circumstances has not changed, will be restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23422/96]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East): As the Deputy will be aware, section 61 of the Health Act, 1970, enables health boards to make arrangements to assist in the maintenance at home of persons who, but for the provision of such a service would require to be maintained otherwise than at home. This section empowers, without obliging, health boards to provide support services such as home help, laundry and meals.

[914] In 1996 the Western Health Board estimates that the cost of the home help scheme will be £1,727,954. The cost in 1994 and 1995 was £1,437,664 and £1,594,954 respectively. The number of home helps employed in the Western Health Board for each of the years 1994, 1995 and 1996 is as follows:

1994

1995

1996

Full-time

  60

  63

  63

Part-time

876

889

888

The Western Health Board has recently carried out a comprehensive review of their home help services which included an assessment of the dependency levels of those in receipt of the service. A framework is now in place to identify low, medium and high dependency levels of clients to whom specific hours are committed reflective of their need. Based on their dependency rating the home help client is to receive five, seven or nine hours home help per week. This is in line with the average in other health boards. In addition, this framework has enabled the board to increase the hourly rate of pay to £2 an hour, effective from 30 September 1996. This increase was made possible by the additional funding of £100,000 made available by my Department to the board earlier this year.

The revised framework was discussed with the board's public health nursing staff and a number of existing home help clients to establish their views on the proposals. Those canvassed have expressed unqualified support for the revised scheme. I am satisfied that this revised scheme has allowed the board to standardise their home help services in line with other health boards and to provide a more equitable service to the elderly in their catchment area.