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Government wants building of old age retirement villages to begin by November 2019

A recent PAC report said it is not clear that the cost of care in public nursing homes is providing value for money to the taxpayer.

Image: Shutterstock/Photographee.eu

THE GOVERNMENT WANTS building works on old age retirement villages to begin by November of next year. 

The Department of Health and the Housing Department have been in discussions over the last few months about putting together a policy to move away from the model of nursing homes towards community based retirement villages, similar to what is seen in the US. 

The retirement villages will be constructed by local authorities and private developers and there will be permanent shared responsibility between the two departments to ensure that homes are maintained and also supported by the HSE.

This will ensure all medical services are readily available to residents living in the retirement villages.

At a recent conference, the Minister with responsibility for older people, Jim Daly, said around €2 billion, from the private and public sectors, could go towards these villages. He gave Kilmaley Retirement Village in Clare as an example – it has operated for 20 years and has a primary care centre, a day centre and a meals-on-wheels operation.

His comments that the government is to phase out nursing homes over the next 20 years caused much controversy from stakeholders in the sector. However, a recent report from the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee said it was unclear whether the nursing home model was giving value for money for the taxpayer. 

Costing of nursing home care 

The report stated that it is not clear that the cost of care in public nursing homes is providing value for money to the taxpayer. This is due to the fact that of the €1 billion for the Nursing Home Support Scheme, approximately two-thirds is expended on public nursing homes that provide one fifth of capacity.

The Department of Health commenced a Value for Money review of the cost of care in public nursing homes in 2017, and hopes to complete the review by the end
of March 2019.

Given the significant sum of public funds involved, the PAC recommends that the department ensures the report is delivered and published within this timeframe.

Once published, the government intends to set up a stakeholder group in March to begin drafting a policy document on what requirements would be needed for such retirement villages, and what standards developers would have to meet when building them.

shutterstock_128291111 Source: Shutterstock/Robert Kneschke

The group is due to deliver its final report – which has been described by one official as ‘Sláintecare-type document for older people’s houses’ – within six months.

Providing services

The final document will incorporate feedback from all stakeholders and outline a clear policy of how much projects should cost, how much people would have to pay, and also set out the criteria developers would have to meet if they want to tender to build the villages.

It is expected some of the key criteria includes that the retirement villages will offer services such as Meals on Wheels, healthcare and day care services as well as recreational services for users. 

A government source said once the document is published, it will be the finalised policy that is adopted. They said from November, they want developers who are interested in building the villages to be able to contact local authorities and be given a clear set of criteria and costs, and if agreeable, get the work underway immediately once planning has been approved. 

The aim of moving away from the nursing home model towards more home-based community care is to encourage elderly residents to sell their homes and move to a local retirement village. In doing so, larger homes could be placed back on the market for families to purchase.

The proposal, which has been developed by Minister of the Elderly Jim Daly and Minister of State at the Department of Housing Damien English, was first mooted in January of this year.

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