Home help campaign wins Limerick City Council support

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

MORE than 200 home help workers at the City Council meeting this week, received unanimous support to their opposition to proposed cuts.

MORE than 200 home help workers at the City Council meeting this week, received unanimous support to their opposition to proposed cuts.

Home help wokers from across the city were in the meeting, following a motion from northside councillor Maurice Quinlivan urging the HSE not to cut any more hours.

The workers are provided by the HSE in order to assist people to remain in their own home and avoid going into long-term sheltered care.

Home help staff assist with tasks around the home, and in some cases personal care.

But these positions are under threat. And with SIPTU launching a national campaign to defend the profession against cuts, Cllr Quinlivan lodged the notice of motion which called on Health Minister Dr James Reilly to “cease the practice of cutting home help hours due to financial considerations only.”

Councillor after councillor backed his motion, with each greeted with a warm applause from the home helpers, many of whom had taken time off to come to City Hall.

Cllr Quinlivan argued that the cuts will force the elderly and vulnerable into “expensive, private nursing homes at huge expense to taxpayers and families”.

He added: “But of course this government will never allow people’s needs get in the way of profiteering. Home Helps are an efficient reliable front line service. The service provided by HSE costs between €12 to €15 per hour, while private service is up to €23 per hour. It is a disgrace and I cannot get over the fact our society is leaving to fall by the wayside such a group of people with commitment, compassion and experience.”

He added his late father Paddy was a grateful recipient of home help care, something reflected in the case of Joe Leddin’s own father, Jim Leddin.

Independent councillor John Gilligan, seconding the motion, said this was a social issue, rather than a political one.

“If the government is going to start cutting back, we must remember care is the first line of defence. People have a right to live in their own home. We cannot afford to do without these people. The money we are looking for is not huge in the context of the overall economy,” he said.

Labour councillor Joe Leddin said he was disappointed Dr Reilly had targeted these front-line services.

“Tough decisions have to be made, but we need to protect the most vulnerable. Why not cut the pay of consultants - let him get his couple of million there,” he said.

Fine Gael’s council leader Diarmuid Scully said this is one piece of government policy he cannot agree with. He pointed out that it does not make any financial sense, because of the cost of keeping elderly people in state care systems.

Cllr Orla McLoughlin, asked her father, Mayor Gerry McLoughlin to use the access he has to government to make the council’s case.

Of the government, she said: “Shame on them - shame on them for letting this happen. Especially when we are coming to the winter. This cut will eventually affect every single one of us.”

Cllr Michael Hourigan vowed tolobby Finance Minister Michael Noonan on the matter.

Cllr Tom Shortt criticised the “culture of greed” which has led to the proposed cuts.

“Most carers go the extra mile and give great value to the state, and to the HSE. I find the privatisation of the health service quite disturbing. Consultants are facilitated in this country where they would not be in other countries, where they operate in both sectors,” he said.

Councillor Pat Kennedy called for a delegation of members, led by the mayor, to meet Ministers Michael Noonan and Jan O’Sullivan on the matter.