The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has urged people to play their part in “shaping the future of social care” in the region.

Health Minister Robin Swann has announced a further extension to the public consultation on Reform of Adult Social Care. Submissions can now be made up to July 1, 2022.

Swann said: “As these are such significant proposals, we want to give everyone plenty of time to consider the recommendations and prepare their responses.

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“My Department has been greatly encouraged by the positive engagement and feedback received at consultation events held to date.  However the message we are hearing from the sector is that this topic is one of such monumental importance that additional time should be made available for further engagement events and in depth engagement.”

He continued: “Reforming adult social care is one of the biggest challenges facing Government across these islands and in many other countries. With more and more of us living longer lives, this is a challenge we simply have to address.

“I would really encourage people who have not yet responded to the consultation to do so as soon as possible.”

A series of consultation events have been held, including with key stakeholder groups.

Two large scale open audience public events have taken place to date, both of which have been fully subscribed.

The public consultation is taking place in the context of projected growth in demand for adult social care.

Population projections for Northern Ireland between mid-2018 and mid-2043 estimate a 56.2% increase in people aged 65 and over and a 106.4% increase in those aged 85 and over.

A main goal of the public consultation recommendations is to enhance both the quality and amount of social care services – with a focus on increasing investment to meet increasing levels of need, the Department of Health said.

Growing the social care workforce and improving its pay, terms and conditions are underlined as a “lynchpin” of reform.

Recommendations also include stronger powers to regulate and inspect independent sector providers of care – covering such areas as levels of profit and management costs.

The Department of Health also intends to review the current balance between private, public and voluntary sector provision in social care.

Details on ways to respond to the consultation proposals can be found on the Department of Health website.

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