The expansion of a little- known scheme where families are paid to take in elderly people so they can live their lives in a ‘home away from home’ is being considered by the HSE.

Under the existing ‘boarding out’ scheme, the HSE pays the homeowner an amount of not more than half the weekly rate of the State pension. In addition, the older person pays an additional sum agreed with the HSE and the house owner.

The scheme operates in Donegal, Mayo, Longford/Westmeath, Louth, and Meath and approximately 50 older people avail of it every year. Last year, up to 15 households took part in the scheme at a cost of €320,000.

The householder must “provide suitable and sufficient care, nutritious and varied food, and adequate attendance, having regard to the needs of the person”.

According to the HSE, relatives “generally” do not take part in the scheme and householders are vetted.

Under its 2016 service plan, the HSE has set up a working group to review the scheme and make recommendations “on the potential for developing and extending the scheme nationally as an additional option of care services for older people”.

The working group will look at international best practice in the area and look at identifying a best model of care for an expanded service.

Mervyn Taylor, manager of Sage, the support and advocacy service for older people, said the ‘home from home’ scheme offers “choice and flexibility and has very many positives for older people and for families”.

“We need a wider range of options for older people and this is one innovative scheme that already exists and should be nurtured,” said Mr Taylor.

“It’s an option that keeps elderly people that do not have a high level of care needs in the community. Once it has light, but sensitive oversight, it can be of great benefit to the family and the older person.”

The working group will also review the 1993 boarding out regulations, identify the scope to expand the scheme to other Community Health Organisation areas, identify the requirements and costs of an expanded scheme.

It is anticipated that the working group will submit its recommendations to the HSE Head of Operations & Service Improvement Services for Older People before end of the year.

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