I have sought to discuss the crisis in staffing in the home care sector and Government proposals to address it. The reason I raise this matter is because I have been contacted by a number of constituents who are extremely anxious about the current difficulties with recruiting staff to care for people in their homes. In other words, home care workers. We know that we simply do not have enough home care workers and that hospital patients who are ready for discharge are occupying scarce hospital beds because of a shortage of home care workers. In September, the Committee of Public Accounts heard from the HSE's chief operations officer, Anne O'Connor, that there are not enough people applying for home care jobs in either the public or private sector. We hear that in some cases HSE community organisations are only able to deliver 60% of home care needed. This is impacting on patients who need home care in order to leave hospital, but it clearly is also impacting on many other people who require care in their own homes.
As we know, there is a policy, which I support, of decongregation or of moving on from congregated settings. As the Minister of State will be aware, that is the Government's policy. The concern is that the Government will simply not be able to move people on from congregated from settings or, indeed, to keep people from going into congregated settings without the recruitment of additional home care staff. There is a lack of any governmental response to this difficulty.
As I said earlier, I have been contacted by a number of individuals and organisations on this matter, including Home and Community Care Ireland, who told me that its providers is at close to full capacity. That organisation is on record that 8,000 carers are urgently needed in order to look after elderly persons in their own homes. I have called for a new a fair deal. We should be adjusting or amending the fair deal scheme to prioritise care for people in their own homes, rather than prioritising nursing home and congregated settings. This is a real concern.
I have also been contacted by people who are carers and individuals who require care, including one constituent who is upset in circumstances where a home care package has been compromised to the point where the person who requires care is expected to cover for home carers unpaid. I have also been contacted by a constituent who is a carer. She told me that as non-EU worker she does not have any security of status.
I am asking the Minister of State what the Government proposes to do about this? I understand that due to the exclusion of home caring from the critical skills occupational list prepared by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, many of those who are currently providing home care and who are from outside of the EU are leaving to work in nursing homes and hospitals. We need to ensure that there is an overall Government scheme put in place to ensure that we can recruit enough home care workers and that, if necessary, any issues around visas for those from outside of the EU who are carrying out home care are sorted out. The provision of employment permits is one issue. Staffing is an issue, but it is clear that conditions and pay in the sector are also issues. I have previously submitted a parliamentary question on this issue, to which I received a response on 9 November from the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment stating that a recent review of the critical skills exemption for the non-EEA employment permit system for home care workers did not recommend removal of the occupation of care worker or home carers from the ineligible occupations list. If we are not seeing a move towards resolving this issue at that level, I want to know what the Government is doing to ensure that we will have enough supply of home care workers to carry out the necessary care in the home that people like my constituent and his husband so badly require.