“Those who need the service will continue to get a service”, Enda Kenny told the Dáil amid fresh calls from all sides for the cuts to Home Help to be reversed. Mr Kenny said that people with an assessed need for help will get it. rabble thought it better to go straight to the source and asked those on the frontline how these cuts were affecting them and those in their care.
Liz Matthews has been a Home Help for 26 years. “I am very concerned about the cuts to services for clients. They’re becoming more and more vulnerable and in many cases they are having their hours cut when they should be increased. When I take a week off I am asked ‘who can do without the service that week?’ and I am left to break the news that nobody will be coming. It just isn’t right.”
Some critics point to the continued privatization of our health services. With some politicians having vested interest in private nursing homes surely they’re not trying to profit at the expense of people’s dignity?
“My name is Eileen Hanly and I am a Home Help Employee of the HSE. I believe it is morally contemptible that the budget of the HSE Home Help Service is being slashed and that money is instead being turned into millions of euro of profit for private companies. The move to privatisation of our service will see the rich prosper, while both clients and workers will pay a heavy price. Home Helps are already some of the lowest paid workers in the public service. We are mainly part time workers and our hours are being decimated. Our ageing population is growing and the number of care workers needed will increase every year.”
If privatisation and profit is the motive behind these changes what are the immediate, visible effects on clients? Eileen continues:
“Quality care cannot take the form of 15 minute calls to clients, as has been introduced first by the private operators and now copied by the HSE.”
The pursuit of profit means that the private operators and Minister Reilly will engage in a race to the bottom for both standards of employment for workers and standards of care for the sick and vulnerable who rely on our service Marion Tyrell, a Home Help worker from Co Offaly told us how bad it is in relative terms:
“I’m twelve years in the service and I’ve never seen it this bad. We look after very vulnerable people – some of the people we look after suffer from the late onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.”
And how do these cuts affect Marion’s day-to-day routine and the help she gives those in her care?
“I’m only given half an hour with some of our clients now. Just today one lady got very agitated and I didn’t have the time I needed to calm her down and help her get settled. You’re given just half an hour to give someone a shower – sometimes it just isn’t enough time. I’m under huge pressure all the time to get to the next client. I love my work but they’re making it so difficult for us.”