Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI), the organisation that represents private home care providers has said that the Report of the Strategic Workforce Advisory Group on Home Carers, published by Minister Butler, fails to address the current home care worker recruitment crisis.

Joseph Musgrave, CEO, HCCI, said: “While the report reflects an awareness of the critical challenges currently facing the home care sector, which includes the worst recruitment crisis in its history, the recommendations abjectly fail to address the staffing shortage in the short term.

“The report does not suggest any immediate proposals to address additional capacity for the coming winter – which is very concerning.”

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Social welfare reforms

Musgrave continued: “If we have to wait another 6-12 months (as outlined in the report) for such reforms to be introduced I shudder to think what home care waiting lists will be like.

“We urgently ask the Minister to implement two practical reforms HCCI outlined in our pre-Budget submission that will help to ease the current carer recruitment crisis and alleviate the alarming home care waiting lists.

“Firstly, many home care workers’ social welfare supports inhibit them working additional hours. A person may work three full days, or 22.5 hours, and receive jobseeker’s benefit for the other two days.

“However, if a carer works even one hour per day for five days they cannot receive jobseeker’s benefit because the payment is based on the ‘three-day rule’ rather than cumulative hours worked.

“Similarly, home care workers who are receiving social welfare supports (such as carer’s allowance, medical card, working family payment) should be given a temporary ‘public interest exemption’, allowing them to work above their permitted hours or income to care for an existing client when their regular home care worker is unavailable.

“This scheme should be benchmarked against demand so when waiting lists exceed an agreed level, then this exception would come into effect.”

Non-EEA worker employment permits

“The fact that the report says that we must wait for regulation (i.e. the Home Care Support Scheme which is nine months away at minimum according to the current timeline) to get access to non-EEA employment permits is staggering in its disregard for measures to urgently boost capacity now.

Increased HSE recruitment

“I also fail to understand how HSE recruiting more staff will increase capacity? This will actually have the opposite effect as our research shows that the best performing area in the country (CHO9), in terms of home care hours delivered, is 100% outsourced/provided by the private sector.”

HCCI said that it welcomes the medium- to long-term proposals set out in the report which include a training and competency framework, graded rates of care worker pay, new ways to commission services, the National Living Wage as the new base pay and payment for travel time/mileage.

These are all initiatives that HCCI has been calling for over the past three years and we welcome their inclusion in the report. HCCI also welcome the recommendation of a national recruitment campaign, on condition that it involves all stakeholders.

Musgrave concluded: “More coordination between the private sector and the Government regarding EU recruitment is required.

“HCCI is happy to participate in an Expert Working Group to determine how we can meet a National Living Wage commitment and build from there.

“It is welcome that the report acknowledges that the practices of the HSE regarding loss-making legacy rates and travel time/mileage must be addressed.”

“However, I sincerely hope that the short term recruitment measures HCCI proposes are implemented by the Minister so that people can be cared for in the safety and comfort of their own home.”

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