Thursday, 29 June 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
141. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children his estimate of the total numbers of carers providing essential support to incapacitated persons in the community nationally and in Dublin; the plans he has to introduce any form of recognition for such carers; if he will allow them to register as carers and be assessed in respect of their need for support, in their own right, for help with the tasks of caring; the number of carers who are currently receiving support from his Department; and the support they are receiving. [18996/00]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): In the first instance, the provision of support services to individuals or families caring for the elderly or persons with disabilities is a matter for the relevant health board. Health boards provide a range of support services to carers, including respite-intermittent care, day care, home help, public health nursing, relief care and night sitting. Information on the number of carers currently receiving support services from the health boards is not available in my Department.
In 1999, £1 million was allocated to the health  boards, specifically for the support of carers and it was used to benefit carers in a flexible manner, based on local needs. This funding was used to develop additional services for carers including day care, respite care and home support services. Assistance was also provided to aid the setting up of carer support groups and to improve training for carers. Co-ordinators-liaison officers have been appointed to assist with the development and support of carers. These initiatives have been continued this year with a further £1 million provided specifically for the support of carers.
The Government has established a working group on needs assessment for carers and care recipients under the chairmanship of the Minister of State with responsibility for older people and in line with a commitment given in the Government's Action Programme for the Millennium, a pilot project was carried out in the Western Health Board to develop a standard instrument which could be used by public health nurses to quickly assess the needs of the carer and care recipients. The initial findings of this pilot project were presented to the members of the working group yesterday and consideration is being given to the possible implementation of the findings on a trial basis.
The domiciliary care allowance scheme, which is administered by the health boards, is paid to parents or guardians of children with severe disabilities in recognition of the extra care and attention required. As at 31 December 1999, there were 9,804 children in respect of whom domiciliary care allowance was being paid. My Department modified this scheme in January this year to apply the scheme to eligible children under the age of two.
In relation to services to people with physical and sensory disability, revenue funding of £3 million, equal to £6 million full-year cost in the year 2001, has been made available to health boards this year for the development of home support services. This funding will have a significant impact on carers.
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