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Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 991 No. 2

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  1 o’clock

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler It is Government policy to support older people to stay in their homes with the correct wrap-around supports. I believe it is everyone's policy. Earlier in this year I warned that those waiting for home care supports were facing a winter of discontent. In February of this year there were 6,048 people waiting. Unfortunately, the figure has risen again. As of the end of October it is now at a little under 7,900. In my constituency of Waterford we had 31 waiting in February. We have had a 700% increase as the number is now at 244. We are currently 400,000 hours behind target for 2019. The knock-on effect for carers, family members and late discharges in hospitals means it is a vicious cycle.

The 1 million hours promised in budget 2020 cannot come soon enough. I accept the budget has increased during the past two years and will increase again in 2020 but obviously it is not enough. As we all know, the most cost-effective way of looking after our elderly is at home. When I spoke to the service provider in Waterford, she told me the reason there was a 700% increase was that the budget has run out for 2019.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Apart from people on waiting lists for home help I want to raise an issue relating to HSE community healthcare organisation area 8. When a home help person rings in sick, no one is discharged to the houses that he or she was due to call to. One day, an elderly lady in my constituency was left cold until after lunch in a soiled bed because no home help called out. People in my constituency last week were written to and advised that if their home help person was taking annual leave there would be no replacement. A man who has dementia will be left for three days over Christmas without any home help. Frankly, this is not acceptable. I want the Taoiseach to talk to the Minister for Health to intervene to ensure that people who rely on home help on a regular or daily basis can be assured that if the home help person is sick or takes the entitlement of annual leave, the patient will not be affected.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar An extra million home help hours are provided for in budget 2020. Given the massive unmet need, the Minister for Health is examining whether he can start allocating the hours now rather than waiting three weeks. The idea is to pull the money forward and start deploying it now. He should be able to know in the next day or two whether that is possible. Certainly it is desirable - I think we would all agree with that.

We are facing difficulties finding home help staff now. As is often the case, when we have the money we do not have the staff and when we have the staff we do not have the money. As we approach full employment it is difficult to find home help staff. Thus, when someone is off sick or on annual leave, difficulties can arise but we will do our best to resolve them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Michael Moynihan is next. He did not get in yesterday.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan The home tuition issue comes under the bogus self-employment legislation. There is an issue for teachers who are appointed to home tuition for children who cannot attend school. One arm of the State, the Revenue Commissioners, has deemed them as employees of the State. According to the scope section of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, they are self-employed. They are in a conundrum at the moment. The taxes and PRSI they have paid are of no benefit to them because they come in as class S contributions. Is there any attempt to remedy this? The State is looking at private companies and bogus self-employment. This issue could be categorised as bogus self-employment. Is there any initiative by the Government to regularise their situation to ensure that teachers under this scheme are properly looked after and paid as per the Department of Education and Skills regulations? They should get the same rates. One arm is saying one thing and the other arm is saying another thing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will have to have that checked out. It was my understanding that the final say on whether someone is self-employed was made by the scope section of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection rather than Revenue. If one is saying one thing and the other is saying another, then we have a problem. If the Deputy could give me some examples, we will get them checked out to see if we can resolve the situation.

I wish to pick up on one point. Deputy Michael Moynihan mentioned that people paying PRSI at S class do not receive any benefits. That is not correct. One of the major reforms we have made in government in the past two or three years is to extend to people who are self-employed and who pay PRSI at S class almost all of the benefits that employees get. These include treatment benefit, jobseeker's benefit, invalidity pension, paternity and maternity benefit and the State contributory pension.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy McLoughlin was not in yesterday.

Deputy Tony McLoughlin: Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin Is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade considering expanding its diplomatic footprint even further next year by increasing the number of Irish embassies throughout the world? Will Georgia be considered as an ideal location for a new Irish embassy? We should consider its strategic importance in the region, its strong values and support towards the EU and its geographical location as a gateway between the EU and Asia.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am glad we are taking a global perspective this morning. That is always good.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We are going from one extreme to the other.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney That is right. Normally you give out to Deputies for raising local issues, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Certainly, this could not be put in that category.

We have been doing an extraordinary amount to expand Ireland's global footprint in the past 18 months or so. We have opened new embassies in Wellington, Santiago, Bogotá and Amman in Jordan. We have opened new representative offices in Vancouver, Frankfurt, Cardiff, Los Angeles and Mumbai. Next year we will be opening an embassy in Rabat in Morocco and in Kiev in Ukraine. We will be opening a new representative office in Florida and probably a second office in the UK in northern England.

We are currently assessing where the next phase will go in the second half of next year and into 2021 so that we complete the ambition of the Global Ireland plan. The plan is due to end in 2025. Certainly, I will take on board the views of Deputy McLoughlin on Georgia. It is certainly a country Ireland is building closer relationships with all the time.

Deputy Sean Sherlock: Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock Under chapter 5 of the programme for Government, which relates to emergency departments, there are clear commitments to enhance or build out the capacity of emergency departments to deal with patients in six hours or less. It is a clear commitment in the programme for Government.

As we speak in Cork University Hospital there are 57 people on trollies. Will the Taoiseach seriously consider, as per the programme for Government, the use of hospitals like Mallow General Hospital and Bantry General Hospital to triage patients? Can we ensure that presentations are made through the medical assessments units, local injuries units and urgent care centres? These are also referenced in the programme for Government. Can we classify them as valid centres for people to present to ensure that we stave off the over-crowding that is currently taking place in CUH? We cannot have a situation whereby Dr. Padraig McGarry, president of the IMO, is rebutting the idea coming from management at CUH that GPs need to come in to carry out shifts in the accident and emergency in CUH at a time when primary care centres and GP surgeries are completely over-run.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I think greater use of hospitals like those in Ennis, Nenagh, Mallow and Bantry as well as others, including the hospital in Loughlinstown in Dublin, makes good sense.

Deputy Sean Sherlock: Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock Will the Taoiseach take a look at it personally?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Yes. I have done so and I will do so again. It needs to be done safely though, because sometimes going to a smaller hospital for triage may delay treatment for someone who is seriously ill. It needs to be done safely.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire This relates to the management of the telephone call list maintained by the Prison Service. I wrote to the Minister for Justice and Equality on the matter in September. While the letter was acknowledged, there was no substantive response.

This came to my attention as a consequence of the murder of the late Amy McCarthy, who was killed in Cork on 30 April 2017. Her partner and the father of her child, Adam O'Keeffe, was convicted of her murder. Amy was close to her aunt. Consequently, the aunt appeared on the telephone list of Adam O'Keeffe due to a previous offence and prison sentence. This is relevant because when Mr. O'Keeffe was in prison awaiting trial for the murder of Amy McCarthy the aunt received a telephone call from Mr. O'Keeffe. This was deeply upsetting and traumatic and caused a chill in her. The request I made to the Minister in my letter was simple.

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