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Community Home Help Must Not Be Privatised

24/08/12

éirígí representative for Dublin’s South West Inner City, Damien Farrell, has condemned the ‘creeping privatisation’ of home help services by the Health Service Executive. This much needed service assists people to stay in their own homes, thus avoiding long-term residential care. It is currently provided by vetted, trained and qualified staff that are often recruited from within the same community as their clients. Home helps in the greater Dublin region are generally employed by voluntary agencies with HSE funding, whilst those in the rest of the state are usually directly employed by the HSE.

While the HSE have been using staff from private companies to provide temporary cover for home helps for many years, the frequency of that use has increased dramatically in recent times. And far more worryingly, the HSE is now awarding long-term contracts to for-profit companies, displacing the voluntary agencies and workers who had previously provided home help services. Meetings between the HSE and the trade unions representing the home helps have revealed that this pattern is set to continue as the HSE moves towards the full privatisation of home help services.

Damien Farrell at a recent rally supporting home helps

Speaking after a recent meeting with management of the Dolphin Park senior citizens’ initiative, which is based in the Dolphin House complex, Damien Farrell said, “Dolphin Park staff provide a full service during office hours on weekdays and up to 2.30pm on Saturday and Sunday. They routinely go far beyond what could be reasonably expected of them in order to service the needs of their clients.

“The service provided by the home helps compliments the regular Dolphin Park service. The clients themselves have stated that they are more at ease with, and have their needs best addressed by, home helps from within their own community as opposed to staff provided by anonymous private companies. And their voice is the voice that should be listened to above all others.”

Last month Damien attended a meeting in the St Andrew’s Community Centre in nearby Rialto, which was called to highlight the effects that HSE cutbacks were having on the provision of the home help service. Speaking in relation to that meeting he said, “I listened to home helps who spoke unselfishly of their concerns about the impact of HSE cutbacks on their clients and the wider community. They spoke of the fact that it is impossible to do the work required of them, with adequate care, within the reduced timeframes specified by the HSE. They also emphasised how important it was to gain the trust of their clients in order to fully address their needs and that this trust could only be gained through regular contact over a lengthy period of time.

“From talking to the home helps and those who they help, it has become abundantly clear to me that the home helps are special people who provide the best possible service to their own neighbours. The home helps care about how privatisation will negatively affect their clients more than they care about their own future employment. To replace this community care-based service with a profit-driven private enterprise would be disastrous and detrimental to the clients in need of the service as well as the community in general.

“Those who access the home help service are our neighbours and our relatives, many of whom are elderly. Home help allows some of the most vulnerable people in our society to stay in their own homes and maintain their own independence. It is sad fact that a home help visit provides the only human contact for some service users. This is not a service that can be evaluated on the basis of euro and cents alone.”

Damien concluded by pledging éirígí’s support for home helps and their campaign against the running down and privatisation of the service that they provide.

“The alternative to high quality locally provided home help service is long-term admission to either hospital or nursing homes. This makes absolutely no sense from a humanitarian or financial point of view. It is a fool’s economy that only serves to line the pockets of those who see the provision of healthcare as an opportunity to make vast profits – people like James O’Reilly and his associates. Privatisation of the home help services will inevitably lead to the interests of shareholders being put before the interests of workers and services users.

“The running down and privatisation of home help services must be opposed and defeated. The campaign of opposition that the home helps and their trade unions are currently organising needs to be seen as part of the wider campaign against the austerity programme of the Dublin government and the Troika. Divided, the various anti-austerity campaigns stand little chance of succeeding; together they could become a genuine people’s movement that neither the Troika nor the government could defeat.”

 

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