Our population in Northern Ireland is getting older. The most recent statistics from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) show that the number of people aged 85 is now estimated to be at almost 40,000. That’s an increase of almost 10,000 people who are 85 and over in just ten years, a rate of growth that outstrips that for people under 85.
That means more people have to go through the process of financing residential care, either for themselves or their family members. It can be a complex process, fraught with difficulties, with people increasingly relying on the advice sector to guide them through the process. That’s why Law Centre NI has teamed up with Housing Rights for the first time to offer a specialist training course for advisers.
The Law Centre NI training team caught up with the community care legal officer, Catherine Harper, who will be delivering part of the training to find out more about this unique training event.
Catherine Harper, Law Centre NI Legal Officer (Community Care)
Training Team (TT): Hi Catherine. We’re really excited about this course. It represents a first for Law Centre NI and recognises the increasing need coming through our advice lines. What is your background and what experience do you have in residential care?
Catherin Harper (CH): I have worked in mental health and community care for a number of years, as well as a practicing Barrister. I have advised on assessing needs in residential care, assessing financial needs, and top up fees.
TT: You obviously know the subject well but why do you think it is important for advisers to fully understand the options available?
CH: It’s hugely important because the decisions being made are life changing for people and their families. It affects a person’s human rights and it’s important to know what those rights are. A simple example is determining where the duty lies - is it with the Housing Executive or with the Trust? It stresses the importance of the promotion of independent living and holistic person centered planning.
TT: In your experience, what are the day to day problems people might face when approaching residential care issues?
CH: Navigating a way through the law. This can be complex, especially in terms of duties to asses. Understanding fees and payments is always difficult too. How much people are requested to pay in residential care, how fees are calculated, top up fees and who is expected to pay them. These are all questions a person is faced with.
TT: Why do you think this course is so important to advisers?
CH: The course will give a detailed understanding of the law in relation to community care and help advisers easily understand how this can help their clients.
TT: Do you have any tips for advisers when approaching the issue of financing residential care?
CH: There will be plenty of tips during the course but one thing I would always say is that people need to ensure they always consider the needs of the person, balancing finance and the health and well-being of residents.
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