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NHI & HCCI statement re changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the EEA

Wednesday December 18, 2019

18th December 2019: Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) and Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI) today accused the Government of turning their back on the care needs of older people in the community. Both organisations have, on a long-standing basis, advanced to the Department of Health requirement for the role of healthcare assistant to be removed from the Ineligible Categories of Employment for Employment Permits List on a controlled basis. Both expressed strong disappointment at the exclusion of healthcare assistants from today’s announcement of changes to the employment permits system.

Within its Budget 2020 submission, NHI estimated over 800 healthcare assistant roles are vacant across the private and voluntary nursing home sector. HCCI has moderately projected over the next ten years the home care sector will need to recruit and retain around 18,000 carers to keep pace with projected demand.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO states: “This Government speaks of moving care provision into the community but lamentably the actions simply do not follow. NHI and HCCI members are working on the ground providing essential healthcare services within our communities. We’re not just witnessing a shortfall but a severe deficiency in the number of healthcare assistants required to meet people’s care needs across Ireland. Only last month, Minister for Health Simon Harris informed our annual conference he recognised services can’t be provided by nursing homes because of staffing issues that were also presenting for the HSE. He stated the work permits issue requires addressing and he was engaged with Minister Humphreys “to look at how we can have a better work permit system for people to work in the nursing home sector”. Have his representations been ignored?

“Previous to his address, the Minister went on record to state a shortage of homecare staff is resulting in non-delivery of healthcare services. And we have the Minister for Older People stating the biggest challenge faced in delivering homecare services is not funding but a staffing shortfall. Furthermore, the HSE communicated with the Department of Health in January to inform a shortfall of healthcare assistance was presenting across older person services. So while our Government publishes reports projecting thousands of additional healthcare assistants to be required in the coming years, it flagrantly ignores the reality that these staff are needed to deliver critical healthcare in our communities immediately. This decision flies in the face of the evidence across our health sector regarding shortage of healthcare assistants and it ignores the very serious implications for our health and social care system.”

Joseph Musgrave, HCCI CEO states: “HCCI and NHI members are feeling the effects of a staffing crisis day after day. As we are now deep in the Winter period, it’s a bit galling to see the HSE 2020 National Service Plan trumpeted to great fanfare but the tools to deliver it once again being denied to providers.

“As Tadhg Daly rightly points out, we need to get serious about our commitment to community services. That means this Government putting in place policies to support those services. Instead, we have this decision to not change the employment permits system – despite the evidence – and it’s deeply regrettable.”


Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO, and Joseph Musgrave, HCCI CEO, are available for further comment. Interviews will be facilitated by Michael McGlynn, NHI Communications and Research Executive. Contact Michael at 01 4699806 or 087 9082970.

Note for the Editor

  • “The whole issue of work permits needs to be addressed. Thank God this economy is now back at effectively full employment.  But we know we’ve services that can’t be provided because you can’t find staff and sometimes I can’t find them in the public health service either.  We need to fill those vacancies and that means in a modern, inclusive, tolerant, and compassionate Republic, unlike some of the nonsense we heard this week. We need to bring in professionals from abroad who can help provide health services in Ireland. I’m working with my colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, to look at how we can have a better work permit system for people to work in the nursing home sector.  I would be very eager to engage with Tadhg and Maurice and your members in relation to that,” Minister for Health Simon Harris, NHI Annual Conference, 14th November 2019
  • NHI’s Budget 2019 submission informed of survey undertaken with 99  private and voluntary nursing homes that informed of average availability being two healthcare assistants per nursing home. Replicated across the sector, this would equate to circa 880 healthcare assistant vacancies within private and voluntary nursing homes alone
  • Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI), the representative body for private home care services providers in Ireland, has estimated that the home care sector will require an additional 7,000 care workers among the 80 HCCI Members alone by 2021, if capacity is to sufficiently expand to meet the demand for home care. HCCI believe this to be a very moderate estimate.
  • “The Deputies referred to home help… In certain CHO areas there is a capacity issue regarding the availability of home care staff. That will not be a surprise to anybody. In some parts of the country we do not have a problem while in others there is a very significant challenge in that regard,” Minister for Health Simon Harris, Oireachtas Health Committee, 27th September 2017
  • “It is important to note, however, that there is a dual challenge; it is not just about funding. If we had all the money in the world in the morning, we would need to get the people to provide service. In many areas, including mine, West Cork, the biggest challenge is not the financial one but getting people to deliver the service,” Minister of State with Responsibility for Older People Jim Daly, Dáil Éireann, 25th September 2018
  • HSE correspondence released to NHI under the Freedom of Information Act further confirms the shortage of healthcare assistants is seriously impacting upon the capacity of it to deliver health services. An email from HSE Services for Older People to the Department of Health in December 2017 stated: “The shortage of home care workers is a significant issue in Dublin and growing around the country…so it is the position that there is ongoing recruitment to ensure that there will be a supply of such staff and while it’s very apparent in homecare it’s an increasing issue in residential care particularly in urban areas.” A further email from HSE Older Person Services to the Department of Health in January this year stated: “Just to be clear, we have a shortfall of HCA’s right across older person services including residential care and home care.”