We need publically funded and non-profit care infrastructure, Commission says

Commission Calls for Establishment of National Planning Unit for Care


The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (the Commission), today published its policy statement on Care. Our policy statement, which includes over 40 recommendations, aims to inform Government, the Oireachtas and the wider public sector of the relevant and emerging human rights and equality standards in the provision of both paid and unpaid care work and for those receiving care services.

We will all give and require care over the course of our lives, therefore universal access to a spectrum of quality care services should be guaranteed by the State. We recommend the State establish a National Planning Unit for Care. This Unit should oversee all aspects of care planning and implementation, including current and future needs for care across the life-cycle, as called for by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality.

A shift in societal values and policies towards recognising care as a public good, supported by public monies is essential. Funding the private-for-profit care sector has rendered care as ‘a product’, removing its relational nature. Seeking to make a profit from care is contradictory to its values, and research shows that over time the quality of care is poorer in the profit-making sector. Consequently, we recommend that the State should prioritise the de-privatisation of care services by investing in a publicly funded and non-profit care infrastructure, including co-operative models and social enterprises, and ensuring a gradual and sustainable transition of services.

Care policies and programmes should be human rights and equality proofed in consultation with structurally vulnerable groups. This is to ensure that they address intersectional discrimination and embedded assumptions. For instance, disabled people are regularly mischaracterised as passive recipients of care, despite often being carers themselves for family and wider community members. Disabled people have a right to independent living, which includes a right to personal assistance as is set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Personal assistance must be viewed separately to care and we are recommending it has its own policies and budgetary allocations.

Changing gender norms is essential to ensure that care work is equally distributed. Maternity, paternity and parent’s benefit schemes must be adequate both in terms of length and rate of payment; must be non-transferable to encourage sharing of responsibilities; and coordinated with Early Childhood Education and Care policies to eliminate periods where neither paid leave nor affordable childcare is available. In particular, one-parent families face particularly difficult challenges in Ireland, and it is crucial that these schemes apply equally to one parent families.

As the State seeks to implement the  European Care Strategy, requiring Ireland to submit a National Action Plan on Long-term Care to the European Commission by the end of 2023, it is important to focus on challenges that are particular to Ireland, including our ageing demographic and our acute housing and cost-of-living crises.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“Care is central to a functioning, equal and inclusive society. The State must lead a cultural shift, by acknowledging its reliance on the unpaid and underpaid care work of women and must take targeted action to address its own failings and to fairly redistribute and value caring roles and responsibilities.”


Other Recommendations include

On gendered patterns of care:

  • That the State undertakes research on the added economic and social value of unpaid care, leading to the integration of unpaid care work into broader economic recording and modelling across the public and private sectors.
  • That communications, education and gender-sensitive policy measures prioritise a radical overhaul of entrenched gender stereotyping and patriarchal cultural values, including the feminisation of care.


On Intersectionality and care:

  • That the State increases research and data collection, including through ethnic and other identifiers, on the diversity of carers in paid and unpaid roles, to inform targeted measures focused on ensuring their access to decent work and economic equality.


On Privatisation and commercialisation of care:

  • That when the State subcontracts its obligations to provide care services to non-State actors, compliance with the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty should be included in all contractual agreements, including procurement processes and service level agreements.
  • That the proposed National Planning Unit conducts a mapping exercise of the existing care infrastructure and services to establish a gap analysis, particularly with regard to barriers to access due to geographic location and economic circumstances.


On State investment in public services:

  • That the State prioritises investment in public services and supports, by increasing the efficiency and accountability of public spending and progressive and fair taxation.


On disabled people:

  • That the State actively supports and resources disabled people to live independently, including through the provision of person-centred financial supports, a legal right to personal assistance, and seamless and flexible services across the life cycle. The right of disabled people to direct and choose the support services to meet their needs must also be recognised, in line with the UNCRPD.


The IHREC Policy Document on Care can be accessed at:




For further information, please contact:


Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8592641 / 087 4687760


Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.