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Elder Abuse

Recent developments on Elder Abuse

1. Eithne Donnellan, Homecare provision must be vetted and regulated, Irish Times, December 15th, 2010

Study by National Centre for the Protection of Older People, UCD found that 2% of older people who were victims of elder abuse named the perpetrator as their home help.

65,000 older people in the State receive homecare services either from HSE or from growing number of private companies.

There are now about 150 private companies providing homecare up from 10 a decade ago. But there are no statutory regulations or standards governing this huge industry. Anyone can set up a homecare company. Anyone can set up a website and say all their staff are trained and experienced.

The cases highlighted on the programme all involved homecare provided by private companies. But some private companies undoubtedly provide good quality care to older people. The problem is nobody knows which ones to trust in the absence of agreed standards.

The H.S.E. in responding to the disturbing programme tried to reassure us by saying it provided 90% of homecare services to older people itself. But, however well intentioned, this was not reassuring because neither the private nor the public sectors are regulated. The reality is that we don’t actually know if the public home help services provided by the H.S.E. are safe either, though the executive says it does ensure that all new staff get Garda clearance.

2. National Centre for the Protection of Older People, UCD

Abuse and Neglect of Older People in Ireland – Report on the National Study of Elder Abuse and Neglect, November 2010

Currently Ireland does not have a unified policy on age and aging, instead there are fragmented and isolated policies developed to address specific issues mainly related to the financing of care. These include recent policy changes on pensions and the financing of nursing home care. The broader implications of these policies should be actively monitored and evaluated with regard to the welfare of older people and their families. There are suggestions that the existing legislative framework is not strong enough to adequately protect older people from abuse or neglect (Working Group

on Elder Abuse 2002, National Council on Ageing and Older People 2009). A lack of legislation or conflicting legislation was recognised by the Law Reform Commission but the forthcoming Mental Capacity and Guardianship Bill may not address many of the areas that inhibit professionals in their current role and expose vulnerable adults to abuse. Noteworthy examples include lack of regulation of non-professional care providers and often cited by health and social care professionals, financial institutions and the police is data protection legislation which impedes the sharing of information between agencies. Inadequate regulatory frameworks and barriers to effective inter-agency working need to be addressed.

3. Home Care Association, 2011

The Home Care Association (HCA) today (22 February 2011) again called on the main political parties to commit to statutory regulation of the Home Care sector by the end of this year.

HCA president Ed Murphy said, “We are calling on party leaders to show their commitment to older and vulnerable people by agreeing to bring forth legislation regulating the sector by the end of this year. The recent Prime Time Investigates programme illustrated that it is now imperative that statutory regulation of the home care sector is introduced.

Murphy continued, “there is currently no requirement whatsoever for home carers to be Garda vetted, trained or monitored or for any for of care planning or risk assessment to be undertaken. This sector can be easily regulated with the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) empowered to inspect home care providers in a similar way to how nursing homes are inspected.”