The Commissioner for Older People, Claire Keatinge, has said that the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust's decision to cut home help to 550 people in the Belfast area is unacceptable and will have a devastating impact on the lives of those who depend on the services, as well as their families.

Claire Keatinge said:

"Homecare packages are critical in enabling older people to maintain their independence and stay in their homes longer; cutting these services will mean that many will be left without the vital support they need to remain living in their own homes, while others will have to rely on family members to help them with day-to-day tasks.

"These cuts would appear to go against the move to provide more care in the community under "Transforming Your Care" and will ultimately have a devastating impact on the everyday lives of thousands of older people.

"It is very worrying to think that those who have been told that their homecare packages are to be withdrawn have previously been assessed as needing assistance, therefore on what basis have the Trust decided that they no longer require it? It is also concerning that those who have been told that their care packages will be halted have only been given three weeks' notice over the Christmas period, and do not appear to have been given information on how they can access other suitable services, on which so many of them depend. This is completely unacceptable.

"I have previously been assured by both the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, and the Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board that domiciliary care services would not be restricted, nor would the eligibility criteria be changed. Therefore it comes as a shock that the Belfast Trust are planning to temporarily freeze some services to those who they had previously assessed as needing this assistance.

"I am calling for the Belfast Trust to reinstate the service immediately. Older people must be able to have confidence that government will plan and provide the health and social care services that they need, today and in the future, and ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect."