Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher TD has condemned what he described as the mixed messages coming from Government on the future of Fair Deal. His comments come following two completely contradictory contributions from Minster Kathleen Lynch in the Irish Times and on RTÉ Radio One.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “The story of Fair Deal under this Government is a story of contradiction, cuts and contempt. In the Programme for Government we were told that elderly care was a priority, but from that moment onwards, the Fair Deal programme has been under funded and undermined. Completely unacceptable waiting lists are putting families under intolerable stress and financial pressure. In real terms, despite all the rhetoric, there are 400 fewer places on the Fair Deal scheme today than there were as recently as 2013.
“The latest chapter of this sorry story sees the Minister responsible, Kathleen Lynch, tell the Irish Times that elderly users of the scheme would have to contribute even more than the 22.5% demanded by her Government in 2013. And yet just hours later, the same Minister tells RTÉ Radio 1 that this is not true and appears to rule out any increase in the contribution.
“These mixed messages tell us two things. Firstly, it tells us that the Government is in a mess on this issue. Secondly, it confirms what we have suspected for some time, that they have no strategy on where to go from here.
“All the while, the Government and Minister Lynch seem blissfully unaware of the stress and financial strain this is putting on elderly citizens and their families. The minister needs to get a grip of the crisis that has quickly emerged.
“The description of the programme as the ‘Achilles heel’ of health suggests a worrying attitude towards the programme in official circles. The Fair Deal scheme is not a problem – it is a creative and very positive initiative that allows older people receive the support they need to age with dignity and some degree of comfort and security.
“I would like to see Minister Lynch come forward to set out her attitude and approach to the scheme, and to spell out clearly how she plans to resource it”.