Responding to the Health Minister's announcement of a £1.6m support package for the independent care sector, Chief Executive of the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI), Evelyn Hoy, welcomed the Minister's announcement and his acknowledgement that more needs to be done.

Chief Executive of COPNI, Evelyn Hoy, said: "I welcome the Health Minister's announcement of a much needed boost to this service under significant pressure.

"While it is a positive sign that the Minister has taken on-board the need to act now to address the challenges facing domiciliary care, the true cost of this service must be fully understood.

"In September last year, the former Commissioner for Older People, Claire Keatinge, held a summit to look at the issues and challenges facing domiciliary care. Following on from this, the Commissioner launched her report, 'Domiciliary Care in Northern Ireland,' which outlined a series of recommendations to government urging for action to be taken to invest in and sustain a system on the verge of crisis.

"I reiterate one of the former Commissioner's key recommendations from this report and I call on the Minister to commission an expert health economist to determine the accurate cost of delivering domiciliary care in Northern Ireland now and in the future.

"Domiciliary care is a vital service for many older people. It allows older people with increasingly complex care needs to be cared for in their own homes for as long as possible and is essential in assisting older people to lead dignified and independent lives.

"As Northern Ireland's ageing population is set to increase by almost 87% in the next 50 years, the availability of good quality domiciliary care will be of paramount importance. Now is the time to act and review the model of care currently in place to ensure that older people can receive the quality of care they deserve.

"While this is a welcome first step, older people need to have confidence that their care needs will be met now and in the future."

The former Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Claire Keatinge, published her report, 'Domiciliary Care in Northern Ireland – A Report of the Commissioner's Summit' in October 2015.