Demand for home help ‘likely to grow’ with a State scheme – ESRI

Older people with care needs wish to stay at home for as long as possible, says report co-author

Demand for home help is likely to increase with the introduction of the State’s proposed home support scheme, new research from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found.

The ESRI report has advised the Government to ensure its proposed statutory home support scheme, proposed in the 2017 Sláintecare report, provides “equitable and transparent” access to high-quality homecare that is tailored to meet people’s specific circumstances.

“A well-resourced home support scheme would provide more people with the choice to receive care more appropriately in their homes and communities,” it states.

The report, published today, predicts that demand for home support is “likely to grow considerably with the introduction of the statutory scheme and the effects of demographic change”.


Projections for demand

The authors found the 24.7 million hours provided in home support care in 2019 could rise to almost 42 million hours based on projections for the demand that will emerge with the launch of the statutory home support scheme.

Increasing home support to all older people waiting for a support package would require an extra 3.5 million care hours, while halving the number of recipients who currently enter long-term residential care by providing them with adequate home support would require an additional 4.2 million hours, the report states. Up to eight million more hours may also be required to meet an increased demand from people who previously relied on unpaid family care, it adds.

A “proportionate” increase in the carer workforce would also be required to meet this increased demand, says the ESRI.

Co-author of the report Dr Brendan Walsh noted it was clear that older people with personal or domestic care needs wish to remain at home for as long as possible. He said it was “imperative that adequate resources and planning ensure that people can receive the care they need, tailored to their specific circumstances, in an affordable and timely manner”.

‘Greatest challenge’

The State’s ability to meet people’s health demands in a timely way “could be the greatest challenge to implementation” of the scheme, warn the authors. If the supply of services does not keep pace, there are likely to be further extensions in waiting lists, a diversion in demand to provide operators and substitution with alternatives such as long-term residential care and acute hospital care, it adds.

Aside from the projected increase in demand for home support, the ESRI also predicts demand for other healthcare and social care services, especially unpaid care, will continue to rise in the coming years. The success of the State scheme will be determined by its ability to meet the demands of the home support recipients in an “efficient and equitable manner”, it notes.

Data from 2019 shows 65,247 people aged 65+ were in receipt of home support, both public and private, resulting in 24.7 million home support hours. An additional 5,436 people were on waiting lists for public home support in December 2019, meaning there was demand for an additional 1.5 million hours of support.

For-profit organisations

The report states that the bulk of home support in Ireland is currently provided by for-profit organisations and that in 2019, only a third of home support was provided by HSE staff while 8.4 per cent was provided by the voluntary sector.

The authors underline the lack of data on how many carers are employed in voluntary and for-profit organisations and recommend that up-to-date information would be very useful to policymakers, employers, carers and home support recipients.

Further research should also be carried out into the extent to which home support acts as a substitute for other healthcare and social care services, while research into how adults of all ages with disabilities could benefit under the new scheme is “imperative”, it notes.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast