CUTS and the privatisation of Home Help Services in Laois and Offaly have been slammed as ‘a scandal’ by Sinn Féin’s Deputy Brian Stanley.
In the past year the number of HSE Home Helps in Laois/Offaly have been slashed by forty-eight, from 377 to 329.
There are now 64 Home Helps in Laois, thirty five less than the 99 in Offaly, with 166 coming under the heading of Laois/Offaly Disabilities.
A HSE spokesperson attributed the reduction in Home Helps to the ‘moratorium in the public service’ but Deputy Stanley refuted this and argued that ‘the moratorium on public service recruitment does not apply to Home Helps’.
Some of the positions have been replaced by agency staff employed by companies that provide home care for profit.
And while HSE Home Helps receive between €13.50 and €15 per hour, it is alleged it is costing up to €20 per hour for agency staff to carry out the same duties.
According to Deputy Stanley this has ‘negative consequences’ for the elderly clients, the Home Help staff and the tax payer.
He claimed that while the wages and conditions of the HSE Home Helps ‘are superior’ to those working for private agencies ‘the cost to the taxpayer will be higher if private companies are allowed take over’ this service.
“HSE Home Helps receive between €13.50 and €15 per hour. Home Helps working for private agencies receive far less than this, an average of €9 - €10 per hour. Yet the rates been charged by the agencies to the HSE is much higher, possibly more than double this amount,” remarked Deputy Stanley.
The HSE spokesperson confirmed this was the case however pointed out that up to €20 per hour would merely be an “approximate figure but not comparable to the Home Help rate per hour as it includes other costs such as travel/office and supervisor expenses.”
Deputy Stanley indicated that he has sought clarification from the HSE on the issue and he is demanding a halt to the cuts and privatisation. “They should also move to reduce administration and management costs within the HSE.”
With an ageing population, Deputy Stanley contends that ‘the most cost effective’ way of providing care for the elderly is through the HSE Home Helps. “The HSE Home Help service has for the last three decades been a huge success. These workers have provided an efficient and dedicated service to elderly in our communities and have saved the state millions by providing an alternative to expensive nursing home care.”