The difficulties that families have in getting carers to look after loved ones in their own homes at weekends has been raised at the Oireachtas Health Committee by Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.
The Sinn Féin deputy outlined the core issues facing care providers and families at the health committee last week and said that the government’s working advisory group ‘needs to discuss all the issues’.
Representatives from Age Action, the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland and private homecare providers agreed that there has never been a crisis as bad as the current situation.
Staff training, pay, retention and progression were core problems as to why many carers were opting out of the sector and why homecare providers, including the HSE, cannot get enough staff to meet demand.
Deputy Ó Murchú said there were particular difficulties in Louth where many families are being told there is no care provision available for their loved ones at weekends.
He said the working group, set up by the government, ‘needs to look at everything, including the rates of pay, travel expenses and enhanced social protection support for carers working part-time in order to build a sustainable system’.
He said the committee had agreed that Minister for State for Older People Mary Butler would be asked to come before it to outline the make-up of the working group, the timeline for its work and its action plan.
He added the provision of care for older people to allow them to live in their own homes needs to be part of the wider conversation about how to care for people into their old age.
Deputy Ó Murchú asked Joseph Musgrave from Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI), an organisation representing private care operators, about the disparity in the payment of travel expenses for carers.
Mr Musgrave said that only four out of the nine Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs) pay travel expenses to carers, with CHO8 paying €30 per day to carers, but not across all its sites.
Unions representing those who work in homecare were also before the committee. Deputy Ó Murchú said that while the short term fixes need to be delivered as soon as possible, the longer term scenario is one where the State needs to provide the care so that people can remain in their own homes for as long as possible.