‘State regulation’ needed to ensure people are cared for at home safely

Measures are needed to ensure that people are cared for at home safely, the head of the State’s health services watchdog said yesterday.

Phelim Quinn, the chief executive of the Health Information and Quality Authority, said they wanted to ensure vulnerable people were safe and received the best possible support.

“Closely related to safeguarding is the protection of people being cared for in their own homes,” Mr Quinn told the Oireachtas Future of Healthcare Committee, yesterday.

The Government announced a public consultation on establishing a statutory home-care scheme after television presenter, Brendan Courtney, whose father suffered a stroke, said Fair Deal should fund home-care agencies, as well as nursing home options.

Hiqa supports the extension of home-care packages, but is concerned about the vulnerabilities of people in receipt of personal care and support services within their homes.

“Therefore, we must extend statutory regulation to cover all domiciliary care services, and other community-based social services, in order to ensure that vulnerable people are safe and receiving the best-possible support,” said Mr Quinn.

Fianna Fáil’s John Brassil said his concern was that very few homes would meet Hiqa’s high standards and the option of caring for more people at home would be excluded.

Mr Quinn said they would be regulating the care provided, not the person’s home. But they would consider the safety systems that a care provider had in place.

He said that individuals would be vetted to ensure they were appropriately trained for the provision of care and support.

Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell said she was concerned that when they were regulating the people providing services in the home, they might exclude the person who just wants to care for an elderly or disabled person.“We don’t want to end up privatising home-care provision,” she said.

Mr Quinn said he did not believe that some of the informal components of care should be included in the legislation. “This is not about the creation of a form of nanny state that regulates care being provided by relatives, or people on an informal basis, by families.”

As a first step, statutory regulation should be extended to the many large commercial companies and public and voluntary organisations that provide home-care services. “In some instances, you will not be able to capture every form of home care, when it is provided on an informal basis. When there is public expenditure, that might be one of the elements that enters into the definition of what is in the regulations.”

Ms O’Connell asked if the State would have a duty to ensure a carer was acting in the best interests of the ‘patient’, if the State was paying for the services.

Mr Quinn replied: “Absolutely.”

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