By James Ward, PA
There is a “crisis” in home care services with no statutory regulations in place and almost 5,000 people waiting for access to services, the Dáil has heard.
Sinn Fein TD Claire Kerrane said a new report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has highlighted key areas where home care services are “falling down”.
Speaking during Leader’s Questions on Wednesday, Ms Kerrane said it is “frightening” that there is no minimum standard of care in the sector.
Addressing Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath, she said: “Minister, there is a crisis in home care services in this state, a crisis which your Government refuses to acknowledge.
“The level to which older and vulnerable people are being failed has been exposed by a report by HIQA, which was published last night.
“The report makes for very concerning reading, and it calls for a complete overhaul of home care services.
“It has highlighted several key areas where the home care scheme is falling down.
“Waiting lists are sky high, and we know that almost 5,000 people are waiting for access to home care.
“They have been approved, but they are waiting. These are 5,000 vulnerable people who are waiting for a carer to be assigned to them.
“This is absolutely unacceptable. It causes massive stress and worry, not only for the person, but for their families.”
We are calling for immediate reform, including the introduction of regulation, of Ireland’s homecare services. Watch our video with Chief Inspector of Social Services, Carol Grogan, or read the report at https://t.co/yAEFAuVf5M to find out more. pic.twitter.com/Okc3yy5tLg
— HIQA (@HIQA) December 15, 2021
Need for regulation
She went on: “The HIQA report also underlines the urgent need for regulation of home care services.
“A recent PQ response I received from the Department of Health confirmed that the Government still has not established or developed a plan to regulate home support services.
“Minister, people will be listening in disbelief today.
“They will find it incredible that there is no state oversight of home care services on which so many of our older and most vulnerable people depend.
“In 2021, there is no minimum standard of care when it comes to home care services. That is absolutely frightening.”
Mr McGrath responded by saying that new regulations are currently being worked on by the Minister for Older People, Mary Butler.
He said: “Minister Butler is working on the legislation in relation to the important issue of oversight, and is examining the HIQA report that you have referred to.
“The minister will engage directly with HIQA in relation to that and will not fall short in taking the necessary steps to ensure that there is a proper system of regulation, and indeed that standards are upheld at all times.”
Mr McGrath said that, despite the challenges, the number of home care hours provided has increased.
He said: “I think it is important to point out the level of additional funding that has been secured by Minister Butler, additional funding of 150 million euro for home support.
“This year’s HSE National Service Plan sets a target to provide 24 million home support hours, which is 5 million more hours than was provided for last year.
“It is estimated that, at the end of October this year, some 17 million hours had been provided to about 54,000 people.
“This is about two-and-a-half million more hours compared to the same period last year.
“So notwithstanding the undoubted challenges that are there, in relation to recruiting home carers and people to provide this vital service, there has been a very significant increase in the level of service and indeed the number of hours that has been provided this year relative to last year.
“The funding secured in Budget 2021 to provide these additional five million hours has again been maintained for 2022.”