Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


12:02 pm

Photo of Claire KerraneClaire Kerrane (Roscommon-Galway, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

There is a crisis in home care services in this State and the Minister's Government refuses to acknowledge it. The level to which older and vulnerable people are being failed has been exposed by a HIQA report published last night. That report makes for 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 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 waiting for a carer to be assigned to them. This is unacceptable. The situation causes great stress and worry, not only for the people involved but for their families as well.

This is happening because the Government is not resourcing and staffing home care services adequately. There are simply not enough staff to fill the places available. This Government can allocate all the funds and all the hours and set up all the schemes that it wishes, and I have seen that in the budget, but that will not work for the people who matter if we do not have the staff in the first place to deliver that home care service. The result is that far too many people requiring care in their homes wait and wait and wait. They wait in hospitals when they should be discharged, or they wait at home, struggling and with nobody to help them. The HIQA report also underlines the urgent need for the regulation of home care services. A response I received recently to a parliamentary question I had posed to the Department of Health confirmed that the Government has still not established or developed a plan to regulate home support services.

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 for home care services. That is frightening. The State continues to wash its hands of its responsibility to ensure a high-quality level of care and protection is provided to those most vulnerable people relying on home care. It is a damning indictment of not only this Government, but of successive governments over the years as well. The Government's failure in the area of home care services has real consequences in people's lives. As I said, older people are being left in hospitals or nursing homes for respite, and they cannot get home. In my area, 660 people have been approved for home care packages and are still waiting for them. People in dire need of assistance in their homes feel abandoned. They are left by themselves to struggle through their days while facing real challenges every hour. These are people whose mobility is gone in some cases, those who are suffering from dementia or those who are coping with long-term illness. That is a tough and lonely situation for anyone to be left in.

It is time for the Government to show up for those depending on home care services. The first thing we must do is to get more staff into the system to ensure that vulnerable people are not left waiting on waiting lists. This must start with community employment. There are more than 2,330 vacancies, many of which are related to community health. I ask the Minister to give a commitment on behalf of this Government to ensure these vital roles will be filled with urgency.


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