Ireland needs a New Fair Deal for care

Ivana Bacik TD
10 May 2021
  • The Government must confront the challenges of its broken care model and our ageing population.
  • A New Fair Deal for care would see an amendment to the Fair Deal scheme to enable families to draw down funding to pay for care at home, rather than in a nursing home.

In her speech on a motion on carers in the Seanad today, Labour Senator and Spokesperson for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Senator Ivana Bacik has called for the implementation of a universal care system providing community-based supports from cradle to grave for all, and for an immediate amendment to the ‘Fair Deal’ scheme to enable people to draw down funds to pay for care at home.

Speaking about her vision for a New Fair Deal for care in Ireland, Senator Bacik said:

“I welcome the opportunity today to speak on this Seanad motion on carers. Ireland owes a debt of gratitude to carers, who provide an invaluable service to the State; this gratitude must be expressed through meaningful change, and not just platitudes.

“Despite there being half a million carers in Ireland, the issue of care and the immense challenges faced both by carers and the people for whom they care are often neglected. Ireland’s population is ageing and people with disabilities comprise a significant portion of the people living in our communities. However, the State remains reluctant to address the fact that most of us will either require care ourselves, or will have to give care to another, and that the infrastructure currently in place currently is seriously lacking.

“For example, the State’s default preference for institutional care is archaic and highly problematic. Not to mention that this preference is not in the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which Ireland ratified in 2018, it causes havoc in the real lives of the thousands of people living in this country who cannot do so independently. We have become all too used to hearing horror stories about our broken care model, whether that concerns the scandalous practice of inappropriately housing young people in nursing homes, or the tragic loss of life in institutional care settings that we have seen over the past year due to Covid-19.

“Clearly, there is a stark need to challenge the bias or preference given to institutional care in Ireland, when most people would want to be supported to stay within their community at home. One particularly troubling manifestation of this preference is in the Fair Deal scheme, which allows people to draw down funding to avail of accommodation in a nursing home, but not to pay for care at home. I have been contacted by many constituents who have told me that the lack of choice given to people by Fair Deal has forced them to choose between self-funding home help, availing of nursing home care (even when the person who can no longer live independently does not wish to do so), or giving up work to provide care full time.

“Aside from recent findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General that the cost of accommodating a person in a public nursing home is as much as 62% higher than accommodating them at home, the very fact that many people do not want to live in a nursing home should be enough for us to overhaul the current model. Dignity and autonomy must be central to Ireland’s disability and gerontology strategy.

“That is why we in Labour propose that the Government changes the Fair Deal scheme so as to enable people to draw down funds to pay for at-home care and supports, as an alternative to care in a nursing home where that is more appropriate. This minor change in policy can and should be made immediately to give greater security and agency to families across the country.

“In the long term, we need a universal care system providing community-based supports from cradle to grave for all, regardless of socioeconomic status. Evidently the very premise of the Fair Deal scheme – the premise that most older people will own their own home – is becoming rapidly outdated due to the housing crisis. These issues all need to be addressed as part of a medium and long term programme of reforms. However, in the short term, I ask the Government to accept our proposal for a New Fair Deal for Care.”

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