Home-care regulation talks are set to start four years after they were first promised
The Department of Health is to finally start discussions with HIQA on how to regulate the private home care sector, the Irish Independent has learned.
The discussions are to start in the coming weeks, according to the department, and should be concluded "fairly quickly".
However, a HIQA spokeswoman said that the health watchdog has not had any recent contact with the department in regards to the regulation of the home care sector. The move is the first to be made for regulation in the home care sector despite a commitment in the 2011 Programme for Government to develop and implement standards for home support services which are to be subject to HIQA inspection. Currently the sector is unregulated.
There are no set standards and no legal obligation on home care provider companies to vet staff. HIQA has no remit to police the sector, despite requesting such powers in 2010 after RTÉ's 'Prime Time' found appalling standards of care by a number of private care homes.
A spokesman for the department said: "The Department of Health will shortly commence discussions with HIQA on how the regulation of this area should most effectively be addressed." He confirmed that discussions will start "in a number of weeks".
"If the discussions go well, legislation will have to be passed to give powers to HIQA. Following that a bill will have to be published to go through the Oireachtas."
He said that once the discussions with HIQA start "the process is fairly quick" although he did not give a firm indication of when talks would be completed.
A spokeswoman for HIQA was unaware of the planned discussions when contacted by the Irish Independent, saying: "It may be in their plans, in that it may be progressing in the Programme for Government, [but] there has been no communication or progress as far as we're aware."
Currently about 90pc of home care services are provided by the HSE while the rest is provided by private firms. The HSE arranges for the provision of home care packages (HCPs) by approved providers. More than 13,000 people are in receipt of a HCP.