A private members motion by Independent Clare Deputy, Dr Michael Harty, to put home care on a statutory footing, was unanimously agreed to go forward to the next stage when it was discussed by Dáil Éireann last week.
If passed into law, Dr Harty’s motion will provide a legislative framework for Home Care Packages for those in need of caring support who live independently at home.
The importance of achieving legal recognition will mean that people will have an automatic right to the scheme or to avail of services under the scheme.
Introducing his motion, Dr Harty said it applies to people of all ages, whether they are children, persons with disabilities, or those who become dependent as they age.
The purpose of home care, he said, is to keep people living at home in their community. It also seeks to avoid unnecessary institutional care.
Dr Harty said home care needs to be put on a statutory footing because its provision can be a postcode lottery.
“Home care is very patchy throughout the country, some areas receive care while others do not. It is very uneven.
“We know there are limited resources, but when it is placed on a statutory footing we would expect that resources would meet demand.
“I believe that home care on a statutory basis should be provided through the public system. The Minister should consider home care as a public based system,” he said.
Dr Harty argued that any scheme must be transparent, integrated with other services and complementary to family carers.
Furthermore, he said it is a false economy to limit funding to home care because it only transfers services on to much more expensive nursing home care and hospital care.
“Home care,” he said, “encompasses not just health but housing, social protection and transport as well. All of these things feed into supporting our elderly people to stay within their communities.”
Noting that Ireland’s population is raging, Dr Harty said it makes economic and social sense to do this, or there will be a huge problem in the future.
“Home care keeps pressure from our accident and emergency departments, from our lengthening trolley queues, and it reduces hospital admissions and referrals if we can support our elderly people or those with disabilities within the community and prevent them from having to go through our secondary services.”
Dr Harty also urged the Dáil to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as quickly as possible and get over the roadblocks in respect of the deprivation of liberty and assisted decision making.
His motion was unopposed by Fine Gael and supported by Fianna Fáil. In practice, it is rare for a Private Members motion to receive the support of the Government.