The Minister of State with Responsibility for Disabilities has said that people who got emergency personal assistant and home support services this year will not lose them in 2017.

Finian McGrath was responding to indications in the HSE's Service Plan that the overall volume of support is set fall next year when compared to what was delivered this year.

The Health Service Executive says it can understand why its Service Plan, published earlier today, can lead the reader to conclude that it will deliver 250,000 fewer hours of personal assistant and home support in 2017 when compared to this year.

However HSE Director General Tony O'Brien says the shortfall will be compensated for by an €5.5 million spend on mainstream provision.

The Service Plan records that by the end of this year the HSE will have provided 1.5 million personal assistance hours to 2,357 adults with a physical and or a sensory disability.

This exceeded the 1.3 million hours it had originally expected to deliver in its Service Plan for 2016. 

However, next year, it expects to deliver 1.4 million hours - a reduction of 100,000 hours.

As it states that the number of recipients of the service is expected to remain constant, the average number of hours provided annually to each recipient is set to fall form 636 this year to 594 next year.

The plan forecasts a similar diminution of home support hours provided by the health services. 

It recounts that by the end of this year the HSE will have provided 2.9 million home support hours to 7,447 people intellectual disabilities, autism and with physical and/or sensory disabilities.

This exceeded the 2.6 million hours it had expected to deliver. 

However, next year, it expects to deliver 2.75 million hours - a reduction of 150,000 hours.

As the number of recipients of this service is also expected to remain constant, the average number of hours provided annually to each recipient is set to fall form 389 this year to 369 next year.

In a statement Age Action Ireland said that, despite the ongoing rapid growth in demand for home help services, next year, the HSE will provide fewer home help hours to fewer people than it did six years ago.
 
Spokesman Justin Moran said: "It's hard to believe the HSE or the Department of Health understands the sheer scale of the crisis older people face in getting home care supports and that Home help hours and home care packages are simply not available in many parts of the country."
 
He said the failure to address the problem  means more older people are being forced unnecessarily into nursing homes, and more pressure is being loaded onto carers.

The Disability Federation of Ireland said it is alarming to note the HSE's lack of investment in vital community services such as Personal Assistance supports. 

Chief Executive Officer Senator John Dolan said they are critical services that support people with a disability to stay in their own homes and play an active role in their community.

Mr O’Brien also said there will be a new budget line to compensate for last year's emergency spending to give those who were forced to rely on the schemes to avail of services including more appropriate residential and respite care. That will cost an extra €9m.

As a result, the HSE says last year's provision will be maintained by this total extra spend of €14.5m

A source close to Mr McGrath told RTÉ News that an additional €16.2 million is being provided for new emergency cases in 2017, including a new initiative - Home Support and In-Home Respite.