A newly formed Home Care Providers Alliance has today criticised the arbitrary “Eircode lottery” home care assessment currently in place in Ireland.

The Alliance, formed by Family Carers Ireland (FCI), Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI) and the National Community Care Network (NCCN), has published a new report, which outlines the dysfunction in the current home care system, including the inconsistent ways in which care needs are delivered across Ireland, the lack of centralised independent standards and regulation, and State policies that hamper employment and recruitment efforts within the sector.

These issues have contributed to a home care waiting list of more than 5,000 people.

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Currently, home care in Ireland is not allocated equally across Ireland – with assessment and decision criteria varying not only between regions, but sometimes within them – so that those with comparable needs living in different parts of the country can receive completely different home care, leading to an ‘Eircode lottery’.

The report, entitled The Future of Home Care, makes a number of recommendations, including calling for the urgent implementation of a statutory home care scheme, which is included in the current Programme for Government, but has not yet been delivered. Such a scheme should include the licensing and regulation of home care providers, it said.

Former Director General of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, who chaired the meetings of the Home Care Providers Alliance, said: “The Home Care Providers Alliance has come together to identify issues of concern to the entire sector and propose solutions to help end the dysfunction at the heart of the system.

“The promised implementation of a Statutory Home Support Scheme, which includes the regulation of providers is long overdue. The introduction of a model that promotes quality care and addresses staffing issues is essential to ensure the care needs of the future are met.”

The Home Care Providers Alliance is calling for a number of measures to help address the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis within the sector. This includes government reviews of the social welfare system to incentivise part-time workers to take on additional hours, the inclusion of home carers as a critical skill for the purposes of non-EEA permits and strengthened “earn as you learn” programmes.

O’Brien added: “Addressing the recruitment and retention challenges in the sector is crucial to the long-term provision of health care. Without a sustainable workforce, those who need home care, and their families, will continue to face the same challenges many years into the future.

“The time to act is now.”

The Alliance also believes insufficient focus is placed on the quality of care delivered, and that home care provision needs to go beyond providing the “bare minimum service”. Rather than assistance with just the most basic of care needs, those in receipt of home care should be able to avail of services that also meet nutritional, exercise, mental health and social needs, the organisation said.

The current model of home care provision also prioritises price over quality of care in assessing providers, according to the Home Care Providers Alliance, and this needs to change to prioritise the provision of high-quality care that recipients want and deserve.

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