It’s vital to address the future of home care

As more people live longer, we have to come up with a plan to care for them and others who require home care, says Colm Burke, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Health and TD for Cork North Central
It’s vital to address the future of home care

The number of people aged over 65 is expected to increase from 740,000 to one million people within the next eight years. Picture: Stock

HOME Care is an extremely important issue. It is one which we must address comprehensively with legislation to ensure the wellbeing of those who require this assistance.

Doing so would improve our health service as a whole.

The number of people aged over 65 is expected to increase from 740,000 to one million people within the next eight years. At the same time, the number of people over 80 years of age will also increase dramatically.

The majority of older people live active lives. A minority require assistance to live independently and the increase in the older population is likely to result in a greater need for community-based health and social care services.

Government strategy signifies a clear preference to maintain old people in their own homes, yet despite this commitment there is an absence of regulatory framework.

Home Care is not, however, confined to older people. It also involves those who develop a chronic illness, those who have a physical or mental disability or those who are recovering at home after a serious car or work accident.

At the same time, the sector is facing unprecedented recruitment and retention challenges, which must also be addressed. This could be overcome in part by removing home care workers from the non-EEA Ineligible List of Occupations.

I have a particular passion for this area and introduced the Health (Amendment) (Professional Home Care) Bill 2020 to the Dáil in the summer of 2020.

This legislation is a follow on from the Law Reform Commission Report published in December, 2011. The legislation proposes to amend the Health Act 2007 and in particular provides for an appropriate regulatory framework and legal standards to be put in place for professional home carers (as opposed to informal carers) engaged in the provision of care to people in their own home.

The Bill provides for the extension of the function of the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) to include the setting of standards in relation to services provided by professional home care providers.

It gives power to the Minister for Health to put in place regulation dealing with all aspects of home care, including requirement to prepare a home care plan.

It also allows the Minister to put regulation in place which provides that standards are set in respect of detailed training requirements for those providing these services.

A new group has been formed to lobby and develop policy on the issue of home care.

The Home Care Providers Alliance is a group made up of both private and public organisations including Family Carers Ireland, Home & Community Care Ireland and National Community Care Network.

Together, these organisations will advocate for a Statutory Home Support Scheme and reform in the sector.

They have produced a report entitled The Future of Home Care which outlines their vision for home care going forward.

In late March, I hosted this group in Leinster House and they presented this report to TDs and Senators. I believe their views should be heard and that they should be part of the conversation when making decisions on home care going forward.

We must also utilise the expertise of this group in shaping our future policy.

Among the recommendations of the report is the need for a Statutory Home Support Scheme.

Their report states: “A Statutory Home Support Scheme is long overdue. It is now critical that the Government steps up and acts to bring forward this essential measure. As part of this process, it is important that robust regulations and governance standards are introduced, ensuring that the highest quality of care can be provided.”

Their report makes it clear that should positive reform of the sector be pursued, it would be transformational for the future of health care in this country.

Their report further notes that: “Home care can play a much bigger role in meeting the needs of individuals through the provision of more complex health care.”

In conclusion, I believe that the change is necessary if we want to guarantee safe, secure home care for all members of society who need it.

By 2040, 23% of the population will be aged over 65 - demand for home care services, which are already growing, will quicken in the coming years.

The Home Care Providers Alliance, with their involvement and expertise in the area, will assist in progressing this conversation.

Finally, legislative change is needed. The Health (Amendment) (Professional Home Care) Bill 2020 must be progressed.

I have and will continue to be in communication with the HSE, the Department, the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly and the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler until a comprehensive system is put in place.

I wish to thank all of these for their work and commitment to date and welcome their support in meeting these challenges.

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