Home-helps case to be heard

 

The working conditions of up to 10,000 home-helps will be considered by the Labour Court on Tuesday.

Siptu is leading the case of the mainly women workers, whose jobs, the union says are being out-sourced and down-graded while the quality of the service provided to mainly elderly people was “under constant attack”.

The home-helps are employed either directly by the HSE or by voluntary agencies funded by the HSE.

Home helps provide a range of services to clients, to help them remain in their own homes rather then move into a nursing or other institutional setting. Their services range from light housework and cooking, to giving clients medicines, changing dressings and helping with personal hygiene and getting dressed.

Paul Bell, Siptu health division organiser there was an “agenda of privatisation” in the HSE’s home-help service, which would see the service increasingly provided by “for-profit organisations” whose aims would be to drive down costs, by cutting wages and the amount of time a home-help could give to an individual client.

The HSE has concluded a procurement process for the provision of home-care services with a number of private operators “for the provision of enhanced home care packages”.

It said the private providers would provide care packages to new clients while those who already had packages would not be affected. Among the benefits of out-sourcing the service would be, said the HSE, “improved confidence in service provision”, “improved quality standards of care” and “cost benefits”.

At a rally in Dublin over the weekend, organised by Siptu, about 70 home-helps from around the Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow regions expressed anger at changes to their working conditions and what they described “the HSE attacking the service we provide”.

They said that where they would have spent an hour with a client in the past, they were now being allocated 30 minutes or in some cases 15 minutes per client. They also spoke of cuts to their travel allowances and no guarantee, week to week, of how many hours they would be rostered to work.

“If a client goes into hospital or dies my hours are cut and I’m not paid for those hours,” said one care-worker from Co Meath who did not want to be named. Many spoke of having their hours cut permanently as their work was being moved to private providers.

Louise O’Reilly, Siptu health division organiser, said the HSE had a “brass neck to say inviting the private sector in would improve quality".

"Shame on them."