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Personal assistance services, home helps

Personal assistance services were raised in the course of a topical debate in the Dail  (Dail Eireann, Debates, 27th September 2012, 146-8).  The Minister for Health, James Reilly, told Brian Stanley (SF, Laois Offaly) that he had instructed the Health Service Executive (HSE) to continue to provide personal assistance services and to distribute the savings required across the sector with a focus on cutting administration, training and travel costs and better cash management.  Caomhghin O Caolain (SF, Cavan Monaghan) asked why such cruel cuts had been contemplated in the first place.  A u-turn had to be done, the credit going to people with disabilities and their assistants who held an overnight protest outside government buildings, who should be commended for their action.  But what about home help hours and home care packages?  Was it a case of who got to government buildings first?  The government should take the same approach as the personal assistants.


The minister told him that he understood the value of the personal assistance service, the difference between the service being available or not and the counter-productive outcome of it not being available for people’s independence.  As for the home help and home care packages, the government already spent €1.5bn on older people and at a time of financial constraints, the government must seek efficiencies.  Surely that was possible to do so in a budget of €1.5bn for older people and €1.3bn for disability?  He did not accept that a reduction in budget should always result in a reduction in service.


Caomhghin O Caolain asked: how could the government find the €10m to reverse the reduction in personal assistant hours which it could not identify a week earlier?  He quoted his former minister of state, Roisin Shortall, who had posed the choice as to whether we should cut home help services or consultants’ pay.


The minister said he had already made it clear that people would not lose their services.  Those who needed them would have them.  He informed the Dail that three people had agreed to advise the HSE on the future of the personal assistance service (Martin Naughten, Joe Mooney and Leigh Gath).  We needed more involvement and that was an element lacking in the past.