Non-nursing government services to elderly people cut

Parliamentary secretary says cuts in HomeHelp care result of staff shortages following change in servce providers, but Opposition MP accuses government of 'capriciously' cutting non-nursing services to at least 75 elderly people

The government has stopped providing HomeHelp – non-nursing services – to at least 75 elderly people, parliamentary questions have revealed.

Social solidarity minister Micahel Farrugia revealed in response to a PQ by Opposition MP Robert Cutajar that the government cut HomeHelp services to 19 elderly people from Valletta between November 2015 and January for “various reasons”.

“Thanks to a new government contract, the contractor’s new home helpers are being allocated [to elderly people’s homes],” Farrugia's response read.

In response to a separate PQ by Cutajar, Farrugia revealed that HomeHelp has been cut for 37 elderly people from Mellieha, 15 from St Paul’s Bay and four from Naxxar.

During a debate in Parliament on this year's Budget, parliamentary secretary for the elderly Justyne Caruana said that the HomeHelp problem arose as a result of staff shortages, following the transfer of business between the old and new service providers.

“Employees working with the old service provider were not aware of transfer of business obligations and had sought new employment, which left the new service provider with a shortage in human resources to operate the service,” she said. “The problems faced with regards this service are now being addressed, and indeed fewer people are waiting for the HomeHelp service.

She added that the new service operator had found out that certain elderly people were being given more hours of service than originally authorized by the HomeHelp board.

“The new contractor adhered to the original authorized time, since this extra time was allocated abusively without board approval,” she said. 

However, Robert Cutajar - the PN's spokesperson for the elderly - used his parliamentary adjournment speech to accuse the government of “capriciously” cutting the service for these elderly people.

“It takes an insensitive government to cut this necessary service for elderly people,” he said.

Waiting list for old people’s homes ‘slashed by over 800 people’

In her speech, Caruana said that the government in 2015 managed to reduce the waiting list for old people’s homes by over 800 people when compared to the previous year, thanks to “modern, transparent and efficient mechanisms”. She added that government increased the provision of beds in old people’s homes by 368 during 2015 through public-private partnerships with private homes.

However, Cutajar accused the government of “using the Department of Information” to paint a false picture to the public on how the government has cut waiting lists at old people’s homes.

“The government is playing around with numbers,” he said. “The reason waiting list numbers have been cut is because the actual list has been split into two separate lists – the actual waiting list and a so-called list for people on hold.

“The names are decided by a phantasmic multi-disciplinary board; nobody knows who sits on it.”

He also announced that the Nationalist Party will on 2 April hold a national conference on child custody with specific focus on adoption and fostering, where they will consult with experts so as to draft policies in this sector.

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