Elderly and disabled people have had the amount of care they get from home helps reduced to just 30 minutes a day.
At a meeting last night, organised by Siptu, home helps revealed that clients who used to get four hours of care spread over three visits daily are now only getting one hour care and one visit from a home help.
Some have already had that one hour cut to just 30 minutes and home helps fear this is being cut down across the board.
Among the duties carried out by the 2,250 home helps in Cork are showering, clothing and feeding people with mobility problems as well as helping them to the toilet and cleaning their homes.
This was the first in a series of meetings organised by Siptu. It follows on from a Labour Court ruling in home helps’ favour which stated the HSE must provide them with at least the number of hours contained in their contracts.
Currently, many are receiving less hours per week than they are contracted to work due to HSE cutbacks. At the same time, the HSE is increasing the hours it provides to private homecare companies.
At the meeting, home helps told of how clients were suffering.
One woman told of how a client used to get 2.5 hours-a-day care, but this was reduced to just 30 minutes though his needs remained the same.
Home help Mary Horgan from Mahon said: “The hours are being cut back and clients can’t understand why.
“Before it was four hours and not it is just one hour, and for some it is only half an hour. There is not enough time now given to shower, clothe and feed clients.”
Sharon Cregan, Siptu organiser, said it had become virtually impossible for people who need care to access home help hours.
One home help said she had been told by her GP that there were 130 people waiting to access homecare in one city suburb alone.
Ms Cregan told the home helps they would have to take more drastic steps such as industrial action if the HSE failed to accept the Labour Court recommendation.
A spokesperson for the HSE said new home help hours were being approved and that, in the North Lee area alone, 150 hours of new weekly service were approved in July.
The HSE admitted that all hours for home help recipients had been reviewed but insisted that no current recipient would have the service fully withdrawn and that the reduction in hours was in the lesser priority area of household duties.