The Government has given approval to the Minister for Health to draft a General Scheme and Heads of a Bill to establish a licensing framework for publicly funded, for-profit and not-for-profit home support providers.
The drafting of the General Scheme is one part of the regulatory framework for home-support services currently being developed by the Department of Health. It is envisaged that this framework will also include minimum requirements (regulations) which will form the criteria against which the regulator will determine providers’ eligibility to hold a licence to operate as well as national standards which are currently being developed by HIQA.
Speaking following the Government meeting, Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, said:
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of supporting our most vulnerable people in society to be cared for in their own homes for as long as possible. I am of the view that it is of the utmost importance that all home-support users are provided with a consistent, high-quality level of care, which is safe, effective, and person-centred.
I believe that the best and most appropriate means of ensuring this standard of service delivery is through the introduction of a comprehensive regulatory framework. I am pleased to announce that Government has given its approval to draft legislation to regulate home-support services through the licensing of both public and private providers.
Welcoming Government approval, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, said:
The development of a statutory scheme for the regulation and financing of home support services is a priority for me as Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People. Today marks an important step towards meeting this Government’s commitment to introduce a statutory scheme to support people to live in their own homes, and provide equitable access to high-quality, regulated home care.
The aim of a licensing system for home support providers is to enhance service-user safety and quality of care by ensuring that each individual provider complies with minimum standards. I strongly believe that stakeholder engagement should be an intrinsic part of this process and the Department will be consulting widely throughout the development of the regulatory framework.
The General Scheme and Heads of Bill will be progressed as a priority by the Department of Health with a view to bringing it through the Houses of the Oireachtas at the earliest opportunity.
It is expected that the General Scheme will cover the following issues:
- Procedure for applying for a licence.
- Establishment of registers of licensed providers.
- Procedures for revoking a licence, varying conditions or imposing new conditions.
- Procedures for imposing sanctions including improvement plans, improvement notices and prohibition notices.
- Payment of fees.
- Transitional arrangements for providers already in operation when the legislation comes into force.
- Prohibitions in relation to unlicensed activities.
This legislation will also give the Minister the power to make regulations in respect of minimum requirements which will form the criteria against which a provider’s eligibility to hold a licence to operate will be determined. These regulations will cover themes such as corporate governance, clinical oversight, qualifications of home-support workers, and standards of service delivery.
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