We respond to the Health Service Capacity Review Report.

Department of Health report recommends a 50% increase in the primary care workforce; 13,000 extra residential care beds; and a 120% increase in home care packages and home help hours.

Commenting on the report, Michael Harty of Home Care Direct said, “Ireland is facing a real dilemma in how we are going to care and support people in our society who need that extra bit of help to be able to participate and contribute to society. The elderly and those with disabilities are a growing segment of our society and yesterday’s Department of Health report has called for a 50% increase in the primary care workforce and a 120% increase in home care packages and home help hours.

The system as it is now is struggling to meet existing demand and it certainly isn’t fit for the demand for resources coming down the tracks. So what’s the solution?

We need to revert to a local focus and move away from a corporate fixation. Ireland has one of the world’s greatest examples of local communities doing it for themselves in the form of the GAA. Why can’t we bring this kind of thinking to the health sector and specifically to home care?

Presently home care is commissioned and delivered by large corporates both for profit and not for profit, in both the elder care sector as well as the disabilities area. A lot of these organisations are doing great work and they certainly have a role to play but are we trying to shoehorn everyone into an arrangement that isn’t always suitable for the person needing support?

The current model struggles to build in the time or consistency for dignity and meaningful social interaction. On the all-important carer side, these organisations mean that carers are one step removed from the older or disabled person, not with regard daily contact but in making decisions and ownership of the work. This can result in unhappy workers and large costs in managing staff performance, sickness and turnover. It also means that while older and disabled people may get the physical care they need, inconsistency and lack of time makes it hard to build up relationships.

People stay lonely and isolated. This is certainly borne out if we take into account the severe shortage of carers that the home care sector is presently facing. The recent Joe Duffy Show is also testament to a wave of discontent amongst carers.

So how do we rekindle a carer’s love of their work and perhaps more importantly attract those persons who are put off being carers in the first place?

How about activating local people who want and are able to contribute to their local communities and giving them the tools and opportunity to do so. It’s not based on corporate strategy or elusive economies of scale but on releasing local people’s capacity to care.

The HSE are in the process of preparing a tender for the commissioning of home care services to be implemented from September 2018 and this will set the tone for how community care services are delivered for the next number of years.

How about using this tender to give families the option of using their home care packages to contract with local carers who in turn are motivated and passionate about the work they are doing?

Let’s liberate local people in the same way the GAA has and begin to build that motivated and passionate workforce the Departments report has identified that we need."