Deputy Costello – I was recently contacted by the daughter of an 89-year-old constituent with advanced Alzheimer’s who has recently lost any home care support they had. I am not the first Deputy to raise the issue of home care support and, more importantly, the lack of home care support. While there has been some investment in the area, the challenge is that the individual private companies do not have to take these hours and can avoid providing the support. There is an absolute lack of home carers. Will the Government invest in home care supports being delivered directly by the State, which would provide a much more flexible service? Will we finally remove home carers from the ineligible occupations list and recognise there is a critical skills deficit here and include them on the critical skills list?
Minister Varadkar – I am not sure what the budget for home care is, but it has increased enormously in the last few years. I believe it has increased by 40% or 50% in the past few years and has increased under this Government. It would not make sense to take a purist ideological approach and say that it should only be provided by the State, which would mean we would actually have less home care available. We are trying to do both by investing in State-provided home care and by using private providers. To do it only through the private sector or only through the public sector would essentially tie one hand behind our backs, which would not be in the interest of patients or those who need home care. Therefore, we are investing in both State-provided home care and home care provided by private providers. The Minister of State, Deputy English, is responsible for work permits and is engaging with the sector on it. If the criteria are met, we are willing to allow work permits for home care. That engagement is ongoing.