1 May 2021
By Elaine Murphy
The decision by Government to introduce legislation to provide for the regulation of professional home care providers will help guarantee safe and secure care, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Cork North Central Deputy Colm Burke, Fine Gael’s health spokesman, has welcomed Government approval for the drafting of a General Scheme and Heads of a Bill to establish a licensing framework for publicly funded, for-profit and not-for-profit home support providers.
This follows the introduction of the Health (Amendment) (Professional Home Care) Bill 2020 to the Dáil last year by Deputy Burke and Deputy Emer Higgins to ensure home-support services are properly regulated and meet the adequate criteria in order to hold a licence to operate.
Deputy Burke said: “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.
“Government strategy signifies a clear preference for older people to be cared for in their homes where possible, thus the need for a regulatory framework to be put in place.
“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.
“Since 2017, funding for home support services has increased by 66%. In 2021, a total of €660m was allocated for the provision of home care support services. This will provide 24 million hours of home support to 56,000 people and includes 360,000 hours for intensive home care packages.
“I am pleased a framework is being developed by the Department of Health which includes minimum requirements (regulations) which will form criteria against which the regulator will determine providers’ eligibility to hold a licence to operate.
“The aim of the proposed licensing system is to improve patient safety by ensuring that home support providers do not operate below minimum requirements set by ministerial regulations which will be underpinned by legislation.
“The General scheme will also cover the establishment of registers of licensed providers, procedures for revoking a licence, varying conditions or imposing new conditions, and procedures for imposing sanctions including improvement plans, improvement notices and prohibition notices.
“The number of people over 65 will increase from 720,000 to over one million by 2030 and we need to plan for the growing numbers that will be looking these services.
“The department confirmed to me that this legislation will be progressed as a priority with a view to bringing it through the Houses of the Oireachtas at the earliest opportunity. I look forward to working with my colleagues as the legislative framework will continue to be develop,” Deputy Burke concluded.