We need to plan ahead for our ageing population – says Cork Senator

21 August 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth

Colm Burke

Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and the Party’s Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke, has said that “we need to plan ahead for our ageing population” and that there is an urgent need to develop and grow professional home care services.

The number of people aged over 65 will double over the next 20 years; it will increase from its present level of 585,000 to over one million. At the same time the number of people over 80 years of age will increase dramatically; in the last six years alone it has increased by 20%. It is estimated that our population aged 85 and over will grow by 46% to year 2021. We need to prepare for this, and ensure we have sufficient services and resources to meet demand.

Senator Burke published the Health (Professional Home Care) Bill 2014 in December last year.

“The legislation I have published provides an appropriate regulatory framework and the necessary legal standards to be put in place for professional carers (as opposed to informal carers) engaged in the provision of care for people who live in their own home.

“We need to provide the training and work towards increasing the numbers of people who are prepared to provide these services. However, we must also put in place adequate safeguards, hence the reason why I believe this legislation is necessary.

“The majority of older people live active lives; a minority require assistance to live independently and the increase in the older population is likely to result in a greater need for community based health and social care services. Moving into a nursing home is often the least favoured option by those who require assistance. Government strategy signifies a clear preference to maintain old people in their own homes, yet despite this commitment there is an absence of regulatory framework.

“Home Care is not however confined to older people, it also involves those who develop a chronic illness, those who have a physical or mental disability or those who are recovering at home after a serious car or work accident.

“The Law Reform Commission Report of 2011 ‘Legal Aspects of Professional Home Care’ sets out clear recommendations in this area. In order to implement these recommendations it is necessary to introduce legislation to amend the Health Act 2007, which is exactly what my legislation does.

“The Bill provides for the extension of the function of the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) to include the setting of standards in relation to services provided by professional home care providers. It gives power to the Minister for Health to put in place regulation dealing with all aspects of home care including requirement to prepare a home care plan. It also allows the Minister to put regulation in place which provides that standards are set in respect of detailed training requirements for those providing these services.

“I believe that the change in legislation provided for in this Bill is necessary if we want to guarantee safe, secure home care for all members of society who need it.”

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