Family Carers Ireland welcomed Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly’s opening of a public consultation on home care services earlier in 2017.
“A statutory entitlement to home care has been one of the major policy asks of Family Carers Ireland for many years. While we welcome the consultation process as a signal of intent we are disappointed that the focus of the initial phase of the consultation seems to be on how best to reconfigure and regulate the existing services of home help and home care packages. While these are important questions, should the consultation remain this narrow it will exclude a variety of other vital supports such as respite care, aids and appliances, housing adaptation grants and transport. We are also concerned that the consultation appears to lean heavily towards older people. It is essential that the needs of those under the age of 65 with disabilities and life limiting conditions are also addressed.
The legislation it informs must provide for a comprehensive, integrated scheme – if it is not properly planned and adequately funded to meet the total care needs of every individual, including access to regular respite, regardless of age, geography or economic circumstances, we see a real danger that the overall result of this process would be increased charges with no discernible improvement to services.”
In recent years access to respite has become almost non-existent. Funding cuts, bed cuts as a result of HIQA inspections, staff shortages and the transfer of respite beds to longstay beds has greatly reduced respite availability and denied carers this vital support. Despite their importance, supports such as respite care and specialist therapies are only mentioned in the document in the context of seeking feedback on how they could work alongside home care services which are defined in terms of home help and home care packages alone. If the consultation is indeed this narrow in focus, it is hard to see how it leaves enough room for the much-needed re-imagining and significant altering of how care is provided in the home. Family carers look to Minister Daly to confirm that there is room in the consultation for these vital supports to be incorporated into any future statutory scheme.
Today, one in twenty people in Ireland is a family carer, providing some €10 billon in unpaid care each year. By 2030, demographic changes will require one in five to take on a caring role. It is of paramount importance that where a person is supported to remain at home with the help of a family carer then the carer’s own needs must also be assessed and addressed through a carers needs assessment, with resources to support carers to care safely and with dignity at home.
Family Carers Ireland provides a range of supports and services for family carers through its 22 resource centres nationwide and advocates fairness for carers. The organisation is currently running its year-long ‘Share the Care’ campaign to help family carers self-identify and seek supports. www.familycarers.ie