The Irish Times – Paul Cullen

Up to 8,600 jobs could be created and €2 billion saved through reform of the home care sector, according to a new report. Private home care providers claim that the savings could generate an additional 18 million hours of home help within the existing budget, effectively solving the crisis in funding for care of older people.

Home and Community Care Ireland, which commissioned the report, wants Minister for Health James Reilly to introduce competitive tendering for home help and home care services. It is also seeking the redirection of funds from the Fair Deal scheme to provide care for older people in their own homes. Most home care is provided by the HSE directly or indirectly through contracted voluntary providers.

Structural changes
However, private operators have increased their share of the market in recent years and want structural changes to allow them to tender for further work. The report by EPS Consulting, to be published tomorrow, claims €117 million per annum could be saved immediately through opening up the tendering of home help and home care services. A further €256 million per annum could be saved if funds were redirected from the Fair Deal Scheme to care provision for low and medium dependency older people in their own homes, it says. The report claims the cost of HSE or not-for-profit home help services is 30 per cent more expensive than private sector rates.

Help hours
HCCI co-chairman Michael Hary said greater “outsourcing” would allow for the delivery of more home help hours within the existing budget.

Although it was Dr Reilly’s stated aim to move care back into the community, present policy and funding did not reflect this, he said. “The Government needs to stop paying lip service and take action to address inefficiencies in the system, through a more open and transparent commissioning system which will help save money, create jobs, and stop the cuts to frontline services enabling thousands of people to be cared for in their own home.”

Dr Reilly was heavily criticised last year over cuts to home help hours.

The HSE says the number of hours provided this year will be the same as envisaged at the start of last year, but this is unlikely to be sufficient to meet demand.