Seanad debates

Friday, 16 July 2021

Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages


9:30 am

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)

I thank the Senator for proposing the amendment and I understand her concerns about individuals and particularly those who enter care before the age of 65. The Government has committed to addressing the matter and there is a clear Government commitment to provide a pathway to eliminate the practice of accommodating younger people with serious disabilities in nursing homes. I met my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, to discuss this matter on a couple of occasions since the publication of the report from the Ombudsman.

The HSE is currently engaging with community healthcare organisation areas to identify people who could take part in a pilot project aimed at facilitating younger people currently in nursing homes and moving them to an alternative housing option in the community. In tandem with this, the HSE intends to initiate a service reform project aiming to gather baseline information on the population living in nursing homes and carry out full assessments of care within the current placement.

Projects such as this will provide us with a better picture of the care and support needs of those under 65 living in nursing homes and give a sense of the scale of the task involved in meeting the Government commitment. The first transitions are expected to take place in the second half of this year and I know everybody will welcome that pilot project.

In budget 2021 the Government allocated over €2.2 billion for specialist disability services, with €3 million of this funding earmarked to assist in transitioning 18 people currently placed in nursing homes to more appropriate housing options in the community. We are also providing an additional 40,000 personal assistant hours, with a total target of 1.74 million hours, to support people with disabilities to live self-directed lives. The Government is committed to implementing the disability capacity review published yesterday in order to meet growing demand for person-centred services over the coming decade. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, oversaw the publication of the review, which was welcomed by all sectors.

As I stated on Second Stage, it is important to note that my Department is working on developing a statutory scheme for the financing and regulation of home support services that will provide equitable and transparent access to high-quality services based on a person's assessed care needs. This will also provide transparency around service allocation while ensuring that the scheme operates consistently and fairly across the country. The system of regulation will ensure public confidence in the services provided, as well as safeguarding service users.

The provision of home support on a statutory basis is key to giving younger people with complex disabilities an alternative to nursing home care if it is the appropriate option for them and a real opportunity to live full and more independent lives. I said yesterday that funding has been received for this year and recruitment is under way to put in place 128 assessors of need throughout the country. The postcode lottery will no longer exist when it comes to being assessed for care in a nursing home, residential long-term facility or care at home with the correct wrap-around supports. The interRAI single assessment tool will be rolled out and there will be four pilots in place before the end of the year. We hoped to have that done by the summer but with the cyberattack and Covid-19 - we are all tired of hearing about them - this was very challenging. Work is ongoing to determine the optimal approach to the development of the statutory scheme within the broader context of the reform of our health and social care service as envisaged in the Sláintecare report.

The Senator has proposed an amendment committing the Government to producing a report on the question of how education and training are accounted for in the assessment for the fair deal. I appreciate the concerns raised by the Senator and I will request the Department to consider the matter. However, it is not necessary to include a legislative requirement to report on this in legislation. Nevertheless, I give the Senator a guarantee that I will have the Department look into this. For that reason, I cannot accept the amendment.


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