Tuesday, 11 June 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Marie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)
Over the last weeks we heard the Government asking older people to downsize from their homes and perhaps move to smaller homes in villages, retirement spaces or to spaces in voluntary private and public nursing homes. I raised this issue previously and asked about the possibility of bringing the Minister for Health to this House. I want to discuss healthcare assistants because we need them. Some 6,000 people in Ireland do not have homecare help. There are 1,800 vacancies for healthcare assistants in Ireland yet to be filled. I would like the Minister to come to the House to tell me what he would like to do about the situation, how he would like to improve conditions for current healthcare assistants and how he might like to find solutions within communities for healthcare assistants within people's homes and within nursing homes.People in villages and towns all over this country would be very happy to give up hours of their lives to provide home care and deal with the elderly if their pensions or social welfare benefits were not minimised or subjected to penalties as a result. Addressing that could be one part of many parts of a creative solution to this problem. As I have said previously, we should consider opening up the area of critical skills to healthcare assistants from abroad when we do not have enough in our own country. We should, however, start with creative solutions in our own country, of which there are many. We are not encouraging enough creative solutions, nor are we encouraging people in towns and villages who want to give help and aid to people they know who need help, whether it is acute care or just a few hours of their time each day. People are afraid to do so because if they were to be paid for it, they would be penalised as they may have a small pension or social welfare entitlement. We need to seriously think about this issue because it is very serious. It is even more serious when one considers that we have 800 people in acute hospitals who cannot go home because there is nobody to care for them.
Members can talk all they like about housing, downsizing, taking people out of houses, minimising the size of houses and building villages. That is all very well but it will not work unless we have services in place. I am blue in the face from saying this and I know what I am talking about having watched a parent for three years with home care help who is now in a nursing home. We better start attending to this issue because I am looking around and we are not getting younger. Maybe the Members of the next Seanad will all be under 40 but this one is not.