While financial support is provided to people who need long-term nursing home care through the Fair Deal scheme, Mr Harris said no statutory scheme exits for home care packages.
“At the moment as a country, we say we want everybody to be able to grow old in their own home and be well looked after and have dignity in their own community,” said Mr Harris.
“But the only statutory scheme in the State is the nursing home support scheme — the Fair Deal scheme.
“So the lack of statutory certainty over home help does pose significant concern for people and it’s a scheme that needs to be underpinned.”
Mr Harris pointed to our aging population that will need increased supports in the years ahead.
“We are committed to putting in place a statutory scheme for home help,” he said.
However, he warned that this new scheme could not be a “carbon copy” of Fair Deal and putting a statutory scheme in place for home care provision would be a complicated process.
“If you underpin things in statute, obviously you have got to put in regulations,” he said. “Regulations are very important and I am very in favour of regulating home help as part of this process.
“But you also have to be very careful that you don’t turn somebody’s home into a clinical environment.”
He said work on developing the new scheme would progress in 2017, but ultimately it would be a “two to three year project”.
Meanwhile the Taoiseach has said Government is committed to expanding the number of special needs assistants (SNAs) in schools.
Enda Kenny said an extra 2,400 teachers will be hired next year, while cabinet also approved more SNA posts before Christmas.
Mr Kenny said: “We don’t know the number of the SNAs required until June until the figures come in, but put it this way — there has been an increase in the number of SNAs over the last number of years and we now have more SNAs than we have members of the gardaí, or indeed doctors.”