Work visas for 1,000 homecare workers have been announced to address a recruitment crisis in the sector.
Non-EU nationals will be able to live and work in Ireland in the homecare sector from January 2023, but prospective employers must pay them a minimum of €27,000 per year, they must have a minimum of a two-year contract and work a minimum of four continuous hours in a day.
Ireland is already facing a dearth of care workers, with 6,200 people waiting for home support from the Health Service Executive’s services for older people this year because no care worker was available to provide them.
Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler said the Government had allocated €660 million for homecare packages in this year’s budget. The money was there to provide for those who needed a homecare package, but the workers were not there to implement it, she stated.
The announcement made by Ms Butler and Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English follows on from the recommendations of the report of the strategic workforce advisory group on homecarers and nursing home healthcare assistants.
It makes 16 wide-ranging recommendations to address the dearth of workers in the sector and the numbers who have opted to quit. A minimum wage of €12.90 an hour and travel expenses will now have to be paid to all homecare workers.
The two Ministers said they supported those two recommendations. Ms Butler was confident it would be successful because of the terms and conditions. “We will be able to deliver this. The conditions are clear in relation to employment permits,” she said.
Among the report’s recommendations were that work visas should be opened up for recruiting non-EU workers.
“All care workers working in home support and long-term residential care for older people should receive fair pay and conditions and have the opportunity to progress in their careers. We need to show home support workers and healthcare assistants that we value the important work they do and make it a viable career option,” she said.
“I echo the advisory group’s call for all private-sector and voluntary providers to commit to pay home support workers and healthcare assistants the national living wage at a minimum [currently €12.90], and for home support workers to receive payment for all time spent travelling between people’s homes and for other reasonable travel expenses.
“We need to urgently address the shortage of care workers in Ireland. In conjunction with wider sectoral reforms which are in train, implementation of the group’s recommendations will have a real and lasting impact on addressing these workforce challenges.”
Mr English said the recruitment of overseas workers for the homecare sector would be “well-monitored” and that conditions would be good enough to attract such workers. “We want to make sure that we can track and we can monitor these conditions. We are confident that the improvement in terms will attract workers.”