Dáil debates

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Home Care Packages

4:45 pm

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank Deputy Bacik for raising this very important matter. I know the issue of the home care sector is an important one for the Deputy.

The Minister of State, Deputy Butler, and the Government are committed to the development of improved community-based services, shifting care to the home and offering greater choice for older people. Last year, an additional €150 million was secured for home support to progress the development of a reformed model of service delivery to underpin the statutory scheme for the financing and regulation of home support services and to provide 5 million additional hours of home support. The HSE national service plan sets a target to provide 24 million hours of home support this year. It is estimated that at the end of September 15 million hours had been provided to more than 53,000 people. This is approximately 2.2 million more hours compared with the same period last year. The funding secured in budget 2021 to provide these additional 5 million hours has been maintained for 2022.

Significant inroads have been achieved in reducing waiting lists for funding approval for new or additional service, from over 7,800 in January 2020 to just under 400 in September 2021. This has been achieved through a combination of validation of the waiting list and availability of funding to address those waiting.

However, there can be delays between the approval of funding and the delivery of home support hours, and the numbers of people in this category have increased steadily this year. At the end of September 2021, there were 4,933 people assessed and waiting for a carer to become available. In January 2020, there were approximately 1,300 people in this category. Certain geographical areas that are experiencing increased pressures due to staff availability are particularly affected. Despite the increase, it is important to note that the total number of people waiting for home support across both categories has reduced from more than 9,000 at the start of 2020 to approximately 5,300 in September 2021.

The HSE is acutely aware that there are increasing capacity issues across both direct and indirect provision. It continues to advertise on an ongoing basis for healthcare assistants and to recruit as many suitable candidates as possible. It conducts its recruitment through a variety of channels, both at local level and through the shared service offices of the Health Business Services. Due to the nature of the role of healthcare support assistants, this recruitment is normally conducted at a very local level and is ongoing across the HSE. In addition, approved home support providers continue to recruit home support workers.

My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, has committed to establishing a cross-departmental strategic workforce advisory group, the role of which will be to facilitate the views of stakeholders and examine workforce challenges in home support and nursing homes. Potential areas to be considered include recruitment, retention, training, career development and the sustainable employment of home care workers into the future.

Work is also ongoing within the Department to progress the development of the new statutory scheme to support people to live in their own homes within the broader context of the Sláintecare reforms. Recruitment of the 130 posts funded for the national roll-out of interRAI as the standard assessment tool for care needs is scheduled to commence in this quarter. A national home support office is in the process of being established. The testing of the reformed model of service delivery for home support commenced this month in one pilot site, with other pilot sites expected to be fully operational by January 2022. Overall, the testing will deliver up to 230,000 additional hours of home support in 2021 and 2022.


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