Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Health what his Department is doing to address domiciliary care in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. [Priority Written]
Minister of Health: Pressures on domiciliary care services continue as demand outstrips supply. The pressures faced by the Northern Health & Social Care Trust are being seen across all Trust areas, and work is ongoing to address these issues.
A range of actions have been undertaken, and are in progress to address the current position. Continuous recruitment drives are ongoing across the sector to increase the number of workers and increase capacity. Whilst these have been successful in recruiting new workers, this has not been in the numbers required to address the increasing demand.
Where domiciliary care packages are not available and a care home placement is accepted, my Department has advised Trusts to waive the usual care home placement fees until a suitable home care package has been developed. Trusts are continuing the messaging of encouraging a timely discharge process wherever possible through the use of care options such as care home placements, or informal support from family and friends.
The Department has also recently reviewed and re-issued the regional Direct Payments guidance, to simplify the process, make it less restrictive (i.e. allowing for the employment of family members where no other workers can be identified) and make the option more attractive to prospective users.
In addition, the NI Social Care Council is being supported to launch a targeted publicity campaign, including in schools and colleges, to promote social care as a positive career choice and encourage young people and others to consider social care as a career.
This issue continues to be a priority and officials from my department have been meeting representatives from Independent Sector providers, the Health and Social Care Trusts and the Board to discuss what further can be done, in relation to capacity issues within the sector, and to agree a solution to see the sector through what will be an increasingly difficult and pressurised winter period.
There is immediate work to be done given the crisis that we find ourselves in, but there is clearly also a need to address issues in the long term. The work of the Reform of Adult Social Care will inform the long term reform of the sector, including domiciliary care. I hope to launch a full public consultation on the Reform of Adult Social care before the end of the year.
The Department will continue to work in conjunction with all Trusts, the Health and Social Care Board, and providers, to ensure the Health and Social Care system continues to provide care for those who need it.