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Webinar Series One: Your Questions Answered

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the first-ever Comfort Keepers’ Webinar series. We deeply appreciate your questions and suggestions and hope to build upon this for a regular series of Webinars in the future.

For anyone who missed the Webinars or didn’t have the chance to get their questions answered during the Webinar, we have put together a Q&A of all of the questions asked throughout them.

Check below for answers to those questions.

Your Questions Answered

Will we be caring for someone with COVID-19?
We will be. We will only do so in the right circumstances. Every case must be reviewed and risk assessed. We will not go to a case without the right skills or equipment that we will provide you with. Be assured we will support you every step of the way.

If it’s a long term client and they have been confirmed okay to work with, we will. We will ask staff members if they are okay to do so and if they feel they have the skills and support to do so.
We will be living with COVID-19 for a long time and we need to plan for our clients and our safety.

Will I be getting a uniform?
We were halfway through rolling them out when COVID hit. The supply chain was interrupted by the need for hospital scrubs but we’re hoping to continue the rollout in June/July. We eagerly want this to happen too so as soon as we can we will come back with definite dates.

Do I have to work in a Nursing Home if I’ve no other work?
You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. We will only ask people to work in circumstances where they are comfortable and within a location that suits. We will ensure you have all the skills, training and support required.

We do believe that the only work that may be available at the moment is nursing home work and it may be like that for a while.

The HSE has asked us to try to support nursing homes where we can. I believe in the next couple of days there may be a big draw on that support so your offices will be asking. If you’re interested, let your office know. We’ll support you and roster you for when you are available.

Emails were sent to employees about cocooning and we gave our feedback but we haven’t heard anything on that yet. What’s the latest on the cocooning?
At the beginning of April, we sent out a survey asking if you were interested in living in with people whilst they have to cocoon. We are currently working with clients who are interested in having a carer cocoon with them and if this is required near your area, we will be in touch with you to see if you are still interested.

Is the company still expecting more clients from the HSE since most vulnerable people will be required to be cared for at home?
We continue to have interactions at a local and national level. Those coming out of hospital will be quite dependent. Where there are beds hospitals will hold on to patients but we are expecting homecare packages to come through.

Will we be asked to go to a hospital setting to work?
We have not been asked at the moment so I don’t believe so but as things change I don’t know. Our hospitals seem to be dealing with things well, it seems nursing homes are primarily the ones that need support at the moment.

Can I get issued a mask to complete shopping for a client if it’s part of the care plan?
Wearing masks whilst shopping has been advised against. We need to link in with the office about shopping. Is there an alternative way of doing it through online delivery etc?

Will the awards go ahead this year?
We hope so. We discussed the risk of it not going ahead this week. When we talk about social distancing, we will always comply with advice. If they can’t occur in October or November we may have to push them to the start of the next year.

Will I get paid if I have COVID-19?
Yes. The state will pay the first €350 and if there’s a shortfall, Comfort Keepers will make up for it. We will work with you to work it out.

Will I get paid more for caring for someone with COVID-19?
At the moment, there is no extra payment. HCCI, our governing body, is in negotiation with HSE about this. We will let you know if anything changes. We will continue to support you with training and we will ensure all advanced PPE is supplied if you choose to care for patients with Covid-19.

The HSE has just revised its advice on the use of masks. Will Comfort Keepers be supplying them soon?
Yes we will be providing masks. All we have ever done is listen to public advice from a safety and professional perspective. We will communicate over the next 24 hours on how you can get your supply of face masks.

Why are Dublin carers paid more than regional carers?
At this current time, the HSE rate of pay differs from regional areas to Dublin and our payment to you reflects this difference. It’s not ideal but it’s connected to the rates we get paid. It’s always on our agenda with the HSE as we continue to work to improve conditions for all.

On my payslip, what is taxable income and is it to do with travel expenses?
Taxable and non-taxable incomes are set by revenue. Taxable is income that doesn’t come with a receipt. If you see a taxable expense or income, it could be a payment or travel expense. If there’s a receipt, you’ve already paid tax.

Are we going to get a pay increase due to section 39?
We’re a private company. We’re not a section 39 – we don’t get grants or funding. We get paid for the services we deliver thereafter only.

Are we going to be paid mileage? As the HSE Home Helps are paid for it.
Section 38/39 are different entities. It’s an industry issue that we’ve continued to lobby and seek guidance on. We will continue to work on it. We do ad hoc-ly pay people who have travelled a significantly further distance.

Do we get a bonus for working during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In March, we invested in our carers by paying for all cancelled work. We didn’t receive any income to match that and nor will we. We may also face this in April. If we’re in good shape we can come back and look at it. It’s constantly on our agenda and we are constantly re-looking at it.

Would it be possible for Face Masks to be distributed out within the different counties instead of individually going over to the offices to collect them? For example, arranging a meeting place to hand them out within a town?
That’s a good question. We will take that back to individual branches and see if we could look into that. For the first wave of masks, we were anxious to get them out as fast as possible but we will look into that in the future.

I completed the PPE Course on your online course but didn’t pass it. Do I complete this again as I did contact the office by email but got no response? 
Yes, you do have to repeat it again. If you send an email to they will re-register you so that you can do it again.

Am I compelled to go to a client who just got back from the hospital who was previously COVID positive but is now COVID negative?
You don’t have to go to any client you don’t want to go to. But if this client has recovered and all the right care plans are in place, there is no reason not to. I would talk to your care manager for reassurance. Ultimately these are anxieties that we all have. We will be caring for COVID in the community and we need to ensure we have the proper skills to do so. We will never send anyone anywhere they genuinely don’t want to go.

I have a couple of cancelled calls that have not been paid up until now, how will this be sorted?
If it’s cancelled calls related to COVID, you should have been paid for that. If it’s for anything else, that wouldn’t be paid as per usual process. We will absolutely look into it – please call your office who will support you on this.

I believe we need to wear facemasks now but is it for Personal Care only? As some clients need conversation etc.
Communication will come out about the masks explaining when you need to wear a mask and why. If you’re adhering to social distancing (eg. having a chat) you might not have to use it. If you are doing personal care for more than 15 mins you have to wear it. Check your communication.

There are no new clients lately. Seems that HSE blocked that. What should we expect for the future?
It’s not necessarily HSE blocking it. Some clients are able to get support from the family as they are at home at the moment. After May 5th, we think that may change a bit. Nursing home work is also a new addition to work.

Is there a date for us to start getting paid every 2 weeks or is this on hold now?
It is still our intention to move to fortnightly pay. We just don’t have the bandwidth right now to get it done with COVID but it is still a priority. We will let you know as soon as we have a date agreed.

Would it be a good idea to have and wear shoe covers, and be part of the PPE, as some clients feel safer in using disinfectant spray on the arrival of the carers?
We have a limited stock of shoe covers in each office so if a client is particularly anxious about it we can issue them to you so contact the office. Some carers can wear different shoes in work if that works. We don’t offer shoe covers across the board but if clients seek it we can facilitate it.

Some of my clients feel trapped and are wondering if they can go out in their car. What can we tell them?
We understand the sense of isolation. Unfortunately, they can’t go out at the moment but there is talk about easing it on the 5th of May.

As I have underlying conditions but very healthy otherwise, I wouldn’t be comfortable looking after a COVID 19 client?
You will only be caring for a person with COVID 19 if you are comfortable with it.

Is it ok to do the shopping for our clients who are cocooning and how do we get rewarded for this?
If it’s not part of the current care plan and if it’s absolutely needed, yes it’s okay but please contact the office to let them know about the time or the cost so it can be remunerated. Please let us know so we can make it part of the care plan.

How can I develop as a carer (better training- counselling for elderly, etc), what could be “next step”, there’s any vision company has for carers who want to develop? 
There absolutely is. Connect with your office and they will put you in contact with the right people. We have a training and development budget for enhancing skills for homecare. We always have new opportunities and we pride ourselves on the promotion of staff internally. Please make yourself known to the local team and have that conversation with them in their review.

Can all those who are working in the Nursing Homes be rostered to work there solely for now and not rostered for Homecare to reduce the spread of the virus? 
We are producing a document on that. You will only be allowed to work in that facility if you are working in a nursing home. You’ll only be able to work in one home and will not be able to work in home care or other care homes at the time.

Can we go see our own parents with our pass as some of us were working 7 days before this and it’s been months since we’ve seen them?
This is a really difficult one. I don’t think you’re not allowed to go see them. I think once the 5th happens there will be some easing.

You can, of course, use your pass if you’re trying to get shopping or social distanced contact with your family.

I was booked off in March and told to self isolate for 2 weeks by the doctor. I did not get the social illness benefit for these 2 weeks of lost work. Is there a way around that to ensure payment for lost work?
Anyone told to self-isolate by a GP or a medical practitioner should have automatically been given the COVID payment. Contact the office or David McGoldrick ( to follow up.

If I get my own gloves will you pay me back?
Sorry that you had to do that. If you have, yes. Please link in with the office and we’ll sort that out.

Us single parents really want to work, however battling to find childcare. I know it is a rule that a child cannot wait in the car in a safe environment with a client. But is there any plan from HSE regarding childcare options? I really don’t want to stop working.
We don’t want you to stop work either. The safety of your family is paramount. David and HR may be able to help. I know the government has discussed support for childcare for hospital workers but I don’t know about the community workers. We hope they will start. Link in with us and we will try to come up with a solution.

Some of my clients are asking about the health of care assistants in the area. I have been saying that no-one is ill – that is what I have been told, is that ok?
We would never comment on anyone else’s health. From a client perspective, if they have a concern direct them to their client care officer to discuss it. We will always follow public health advice and advise people if they are unwell – even just a sniffle or cough – that they must not go to work and to contact a GP. The right to privacy is important.

It seems COVID will be here for some time until there’s a vaccine. Will we still get new clients along the way?
Agree 100% that COVID will be here for a while. Yes, we will. We need to live alongside COVID now. We’re working in the background, developing new types of care that will work with COVID. There are lots of things we have to consider for the future. In our industry, COVID will continue and we have to learn to live alongside it.

You are presenting all Comfort Keepers staff as heroes but still, we don’t get paid more and of course, we had to pay our own masks so that we can provide care to clients. The company never informed staff that one of the clients had Covid19 and we were working with those carers.

Thank you for your question, during the month of March we have paid all our staff for care cancelled due to Covid19. We have not been paid for this by the HSE. We have continued to follow public health advice in relation to face masks. This week Public Health changed their advice in relation to the use of face masks by healthcare workers and we are following this advice. We have an adequate stock of face masks available for you, please contact your local office and we will arrange to get these to you.

With GDPR we are not permitted to share any information on any of our clients or our employees. We continue to work with and follow the advice of the Public Health team. Public Health will contact any persons they deemed to be at risk of contracting the virus through their contact tracing team. Our employees and our clients safety are our priority and if we are asked in the future to care for someone with Covid19, we will ask you and it will be your choice to do so.

How is Comfort Keepers funded and what group can access your service?

Comfort Keepers is a privately owned company and are self-funded. We do not receive any grants or funding from the HSE. We provide care in the community on behalf of the HSE Older Person services, HSE Disabilities services and privately.

How can care calls for clients during the weekends be improved? 

Care calls at the weekend are treated the same as care calls during the week however times may vary and staff may differ as our staff don’t normally work 7 days a week. If you feel the care calls for your client needs to be improved please contact your local office manager.


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