Government is failing to deliver imaginative and constructive solutions to the ongoing crisis in the Home Support Service, more commonly referred to as Home Help, according to Independent TD for West-Cork, Michael Collins.
Deputy Collins was speaking following his contribution to a Dáil debate on Home Supports which heard calls for targeted increases in funding for housing adaptation grants, personal assistance, and intensive home care packages to enable people to live at home for longer:
“My office is routinely inundated with frantic calls from older persons or their families in a desperate attempt to seek some kind of intervention around home help,” said Deputy Collins.
“In many instances they have been ‘allocated’ a certain number of hours by the HSE and initially they are delighted with this. Pretty soon however that delight turns to dismay as they realise that the staff needed to deliver those hours are just not there.”
“This is why the Government’s endless assertion that it is ‘providing’ millions of hours to more than 56,000 people in the community is utterly disingenuous and simply does not reflect the reality of what is taking place on the ground.”
“I also put it to the Minister that a large part of the problem lies in the fact that home care assistants are required to have a FETAC level 5 qualification or equivalent. However, in my constituency of Cork South-West there are no opportunities to acquire this qualification in an evening class.”
“One idea that should be explored is earn as you learn, which describes a concept combining study with practical experience, thus enabling individuals to gain the knowledge and skills required to pursue their chosen occupation, similar to an apprenticeship.”
“This gives the participant the opportunity to gain practical skills in the workplace while earning a wage but also to study towards completing a FETAC level 5 qualification. I envisage that an apprentice would accompany and shadow a qualified home help on her daily visits to patients, while at the same time freeing up another qualified home help and, in this case, increasing the home care workforce.”
“It is time for Government to urgently consider imaginative and constructive measures like this as part of the mix of approaches needed to address the dire shortfall in home help staff,” concluded Deputy Collins.