Govt. took €31m from the elderly claims Naughten

Over €31 million in interest on the pocket money of elderly people in long stay public nursing homes has been illegally taken from them, according to Denis Naughten TD. ‘This money was used by the Health Services Executive (HSE) and its predecessor health boards in many instances to ‘balance the books’, rather than being returned to elderly people, who were unaware of the practice. ‘At the time the interest was taken, in the majority of cases, people in long-stay homes had less than €100 in their pocket money accounts, which is used for purchasing toiletries, clothing and other small comforts. ‘Following legal advice, the Government now intends to return the interest on accounts to the elderly involved but, to add insult to injury, from 2007 on, the Government is planning to formalise the retention of a quarter of the interest earned on the accounts of nursing home and psychiatric patients. ‘Under a Government plan the HSE will charge 25 percent of the interest earned on the patients’ own money for the administration of their accounts while in public long stay institutions, such as nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals. This is made up of pocket money, which they are allowed to keep from their old age pensions or other State pensions. ‘This is yet another stealth tax on the elderly from an FF Government that has a dismal track record in this area, and bringing in this new regulation is just the latest assault on nursing home patients. Fine Gael believes that this sneaky tax, which was not a feature of the Health Minister’s proposals for funding elderly care, cannot be justified and we oppose its introduction.’