Reform needed to make Western Trust fit for purpose

Reform needed to make Western Trust fit for purpose

Sinn Féin's Cllr Michaela Boyle says a major reform of the Western Trust's social care system would help both staff and service users

Sinn Féin councillor, Michaela Boyle says a major reform of the Western Trust's social care system must take place to ensure it is fit for purpose.

The representative for the Sperrin ward was commenting ahead of Thursday's meeting of Derry & Strabane Council where Sinn Féin intend to table a motion calling for social care reform.

Ms Boyle said that staff shortages and the need for fairer wages that cover travel costs and a lack of pathways for career progression were putting additional pressure on staff and patients.

Cllr. Boyle said: “No one doubts there are massive pressures and challenges facing our social care system which is impacting on the ability to deliver high quality domiciliary care within the community.
“That was true before the pandemic but has been greatly exacerbated over the past 18 months.

“There are major problems over a lack of workforce planning, leading to staff shortages and high vacancy rates which in turn puts additional pressure on staff, service users and their families.

“There is a clear need to improve the terms and conditions of domiciliary care staff, including rates of pay, covering travel costs, and providing career progression pathways.

“All that is vital if we are to ensure that the social care system is fit for purpose now and into the future so that those who need care are properly looked after and staff are properly valued.

“To that end, I hope that all parties can support my motion at the full council meeting as it will call on the Western Health and Social Care Trust to provide us with a detailed briefing on the current position regarding social care.

“We are also calling on the Minister of Health to outline his plans to reform adult social care, including a detailed report into the true cost of delivering all aspects of the necessary changes.”

In response, Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed his intention to launch a public consultation on reforming adult social care. The consultation will begin later this year.

The Minister stated: “I am on record as describing Northern Ireland’s social care system as not fit for purpose.

“This was also a central conclusion of the independent Power to People review commissioned by the Department of Health and published in late 2017.

“We need to increase the quantity of social care to meet growing demand, we need to improve the quality of social care so that people can live with dignity and independence and we need a fair and equitable answer to the questions of who pays and what and when they pay.

“We also need to do right by those hard working and dedicated people who work in this sector, often for minimum wage and in some cases, in real terms, even less than minimum wage.

“These are not new challenges though the need to address them becomes more pressing with every day. Solving them will not be easy or cheap which is why they have unfortunately been kicked down the road time after time. That has to stop.

“I will be launching a public consultation on reforming social care in Northern Ireland later this year. Options to be addressed in this consultation will include introducing a cap on care costs incurred by individuals, but this cannot be looked at in isolation from the need to significantly increase investment.

“Reforming social care is one of the biggest and most important issues facing Government. I am looking forward to a wide ranging and informed public discussion on how best to get it right.”

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