Thursday, 31 March 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Home Help Service
I am asking this question on behalf of my colleague, Deputy O'Dea. There is a commitment in the HSE's service plan to progress the establishment of a national home support office by the end of quarter 1, which is today, believe it or not. This follows on from a programme for Government commitment to introduce a statutory scheme to support people to live in their own homes. What progress has been made in this regard?
Approval and funding was provided in 2021 for the new national older persons services offices, encompassing the national home support office to be located in Tullamore, County Offaly. The development of a national office for home support will streamline existing structures, providing enhanced management and administration of home support services.
The HSE has advised that work is ongoing to open the office. Refurbishment works are needed and HSE estates has appointed a project manager to oversee this work. The expected timeframe for completion of works and signed lease agreement is quarter two, 2022.
Funding has been provided for 15 full-time jobs, including nine CHO home support manager or co-ordinator posts. The national home support office will ensure a centralised team is in place to assist with the delivery of home support services in anticipation of the statutory home support scheme. The functions of the office will include the development of the structures and processes through which the new statutory scheme will be delivered, including a prioritisation framework for service allocation and active management of waiting list for services. The office will also monitor demand for the scheme at a national level to ensure the capacity of the scheme is sufficient to meet current and future demand, develop a standardised training model for the statutory scheme, and act as the central point for applications for home support services.
I thank the Minister of State for that reply. As always, the HSE is going to make sure the office is ready but let us make sure that the service is not affected. I note that Deputy Colm Burke is present. Last week, he hosted a very good information session, alongside the former Minister of State at the Department of Health, Jim Daly, with the Home Care Providers Alliance. It is essential to ensure, as we move to this new service, that there is no interruption to service on the ground and that local management and local knowledge is still very much a part of it because that often gets lost in the centralisation of HSE services.
When I was lucky enough to be first elected to this House, the problem was getting hours for a home care service, particularly for home help. Now the problem is getting people to service those hours. Many families are given the hours but cannot get the carers. We need to make sure there is no loss of service as we move to this new structure. I welcome the HSE commitment and the programme for Government commitment but I always fear that when the HSE centralises a service, it loses the local connection. I would like an assurance that this will not happen, and I know that the Minister of State will share my wish that it does not happen on this occasion. HSE and private home helpers do extraordinary work across the country but they are absolutely undervalued. We need to make sure that work is not lost.
I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. As he said, the programme for Government commits the Government to introducing a statutory scheme to support people to live in their own homes that will provide equitable access to high-quality, regulated home care. It is important to note that progress has been made in this area. At the end of January 2022, 4,836 people had been assessed and were waiting for a carer to become available. This is a reduction from December 2021, when 5,322 people were waiting for a carer to become available. There are issues that need to be dealt with but 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 5,110 by the end of January 2022. A lot of home care hours were allocated but finding staff to fulfil those allocations has been a challenge.
The HSE needs to invest in staff and in recruiting more staff. I acknowledge the work that the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, has done in this area. Last Jul,y she launched four pilot schemes in CHOs in Galway, Cork, Dublin and Westmeath. How are they progressing and what differences have been picked up between those pilot schemes and the roll-out of the current scheme?
I also want to thank the Minister of State for the work being done in this area. Following on from what the Deputy said, in September 2020 I introduced a Private Member's Bill related to the regulation of home care, including putting it on a statutory footing. I know that work is ongoing on that issue but is there a timeframe for the introduction of legislation to put home care provision on a statutory footing? When are we likely to see the draft legislation?
In 2021, the Government gave approval for a draft general scheme and heads of a Bill to establish a licensing framework for home support providers. The Minister of State, Deputy Butler, is very interested in this area and I will relay the concerns of Deputy Calleary to her. The pilot schemes she set up will assist in determining the way forward but I do not have details on the results of same. I will bring the Deputy's concerns to the attention of the Minister of State.