14. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health his plans to change the criteria for the home support scheme in view of the fact that those persons that have been approved for home help often remain on a waiting list for some time until hours become available (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 6362/18 asked on 08 Feb 2018)

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): If Deputy Smith will forgo his 30 seconds, I will let the Minister reply and give the Deputy one minute for a supplementary. Is that all right?

Deputy Brendan Smith: Yes.

Deputy Simon Harris: I thank Deputy Smith for raising this matter. The Government is committed to promoting care in the community so that people can continue to live with confidence, security and dignity in their own homes for as long as possible. To support this, we plan to establish a new statutory scheme for the financing and regulation of home care services. I know the Deputy supports that move and the Department is currently engaged in a detailed process to progress this issue. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, recently outlined how we have received over 2,600 submissions as part of that consultation. They are currently being collated and a report will go to the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the Department and HSE are continuing efforts to incrementally improve our existing services. As detailed in its national service plan, the HSE is streamlining home care services by moving towards a single funded service. This combines the funding for home help and standard home care packages which will operate as a single home support service from this year onwards.

Home support services are a particular area of focus in budget 2018, with an additional €18.25 million allocated.

12 o’clock

The additional resources bring the budget for the direct provision of home support services to €408 million, delivering over 17 million home support hours to 50,500 people. This compares with an estimated 16.34 million hours delivered to 50,000 people last year. In addition, 235 intensive home care packages will provide 360,000 home support hours for people with complex needs. Despite this significant level of service provision, the demand for home care continues to grow. It is important to note that the allocation of funding for home care across the system is finite and services and the HSE must distribute it across the CHOs.

Deputy Brendan Smith: I thank the Minister for his reply and welcome his commitment to the introduction of a statutory scheme. I hope the Minister can indicate that it will be implemented within a short time. The Minister pointed out, quite rightly, the importance of home support. In too many instances when we make representations on behalf of people who need home support, we are told that while the patient has been approved for support, the service will not be provided until hours become available. We are all well aware that patients are being kept unnecessarily in hospital beds because the supports have not been put in place to allow them to be discharged. Likewise, there are people in nursing homes who would much prefer to be in their home environment with adequate home care support. This is an extremely important scheme and the people delivering it do an exceptionally good job. All of us know there is a desire on the part of people to remain in their homes as long as possible. Additional funding will save the Exchequer and the HSE money in other parts of the health service. As such, I appeal to the Minister to try to provide additional resources so that the time lag between a patient being approved and the service being put in place can be reduced dramatically.