South Down MLA Seán Rogers is urging the Minister for Health to use his remaining time in office, ahead of the Assembly Elections, to begin a meaningful and targeted root and branch review of the systems in place to remunerate nursing homes and care workers.
Following the recently announced additional £1.6m from the Health and Social Care Board for the independent sector, the SDLP MLA said, “I welcome wholeheartedly this much needed additional funding to the sector but I have serious reservations on the almost random approach being adopted to fix what I see as systemic failure caused by under-funding within the caring industry.”
Mr Rogers added: “We are increasingly entrusting the private sector to seek out and recruit front-line staff to care for one of the most vulnerable groups within society, our elderly. When we consider this in the context of our own parents or grandparents, all of would hope that the carer entrusted to look after our loved one will possess all of training and personal qualities required to make a good carer. It would also be hoped that the elderly person would have an opportunity to get to know their carer and develop, at the very least, a sense of contentment in their presence.
“The sad truth and reality is unfortunately, in many cases, very different. Whilst many caring individuals are drawn to the job, few can afford to stay due to the low rate of pay and limited refunds for expenses paid. Employers within the private sector openly admit that they are struggling to develop a viable business model. This has resulted in closures and residents living in fear of possible closures.
The private sector nursing and care homes play a critical role in our society and we cannot turn a blind eye to the very real problems they are experiencing. Additional funding is of course welcome but I, like many, fear the likelihood of that funding reaching the very deserving front-line staff, as hoped, will present a logistical challenge for management.”