Homecare providers to be subject to new licensing framework

Funding model for sector remains under examination, says Department of Health

The funding model for homecare has been a subject of debate for several years. File photograph: iStock

The funding model for homecare has been a subject of debate for several years. File photograph: iStock

 

The Department of Health has said it is continuing to work on a statutory scheme for the financing of home-support services but that no decision has been taken on whether this will involve the introduction of new charges.

It said the format of the planned new scheme would be informed by research which was being undertaken by the ESRI “on the demand for, and cost of, home-support services in a range of scenarios”.

The funding model for homecare has been a subject of debate for several years and in December 2019 the then minister of state for Older People Jim Daly suggested people receiving such e support in the future faced having to pay some of the costs themselves, under proposed new reforms to the sector.

He indicated that the co-payment would be based on the person’s income and not be linked to property assets.

The department said on Friday that the Government had earlier this week given approval to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to draft a general scheme and heads of a bill to establish a licensing framework for publicly funded, for-profit and not-for-profit home support providers.

“The drafting of the general scheme is one part of the regulatory framework for home-support services currently being developed by the Department of Health. It is envisaged that this framework will also include minimum requirements (regulations) which will form the criteria against which the regulator will determine providers’ eligibility to hold a licence to operate as well as national standards which are currently being developed by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).”

Asked about the potential for the introduction of charges as proposed by the previous Minister in 2019, the department said on Friday that in parallel with the development of a regulatory framework for home support services, it was continuing to progress work on a statutory scheme for the financing of home-support services.

It said “no decision has been taken at this time in regard to the potential introduction of user-contributions”.

Mr Donnelly said: “The Covid -19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of supporting our most vulnerable people in society to be cared for in their own homes for as long as possible. I am of the view that it is of the utmost importance that all home-support users are provided with a consistent, high-quality level of care, which is safe, effective, and person-centred.

“I believe that the best and most appropriate means of ensuring this standard of service delivery is through the introduction of a comprehensive regulatory framework. I am pleased to announce that Government has given its approval to draft legislation to regulate home-support services through the licensing of both public and private providers.”

Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler said the development of a statutory scheme for the regulation and financing of home support services was one of her priorities.

“The aim of a licensing system for home support providers is to enhance service-user safety and quality of care by ensuring that each individual provider complies with minimum standards,” she said.

“I strongly believe that stakeholder engagement should be an intrinsic part of this process and the Department will be consulting widely throughout the development of the regulatory framework.”