The Commissioner for Older People, Claire Keatinge, has welcomed the decision by the Belfast Trust to reverse temporary cuts to homecare packages for 550 older people, but has said that commitment must be given by the Trusts that assessed needs will be met in full going forward.

Claire Keatinge said:

"Older people need and have a right to the services they have been assessed as requiring. It is unacceptable that often when cuts are made to health and social services, it is older people who are hit the hardest. They must be able to be confident that they will not be pawns in budgetary cuts.

"It is shameful that letters were sent to older people just before Christmas announcing cuts to their services with only three weeks' notice. This will have caused fear and distress for many older people who received the letters, and undoubtedly put some at real risk of harm and isolation, had the cuts gone ahead.

"It is concerning that lessons do not appear to have been learnt from the poor handling of the proposed closure of statutory residential homes, and that the Belfast Trust did not see fit to properly engage with those older people who would have been directly affected by the cuts to services. The same disrespect and disregard for the lives and feelings was shown to the older people affected.

"The devastating impact that cuts to vital services would have on older people must be a main consideration for those making budget decisions. When changes in the provision of services need to be made, adequate alternative support must be in place to ensure that the needs of older people will still be met.

"Going forward, the Belfast Trust must take steps to reassure those affected that their services will now not be cut, and give a commitment that older people can have certainty that any assessed needs will be met in full and that they will receive the care and support they need and are entitled to."