The Government has been urged to prioritise the introduction of adult safeguarding legislation to protect the country's most vulnerable adults from abuse or exploitation.
The call was made by Chief Executive of the Health Information and Quality Authority Phelim Quinn.
He also told a conference of voluntary service providers that the current Government seems to have abandoned the commitment of the previous administration to regulate the home care sector but the watchdog firmly believes people being cared for in their own homes are markedly vulnerable.
Mr Quinn said home care regulation was supported by the sector itself.
He said it should include care provided in emerging service models, such as supported or assisted-living services whereby personal care is provided on an individual or group basis.
Mr Quinn underlined that such services are mostly delivered to people with an intellectual or physical disability and older people or people with mental illness, all of whom are potentially vulnerable.
Examples that he cited of groups needing the protection of adult safeguarding legislation included the homeless, prisoners, and migrants or asylum seekers in Direct Provision.
He underlined that all of them are entitled to safe care and to be protected from abuse.
Mr Quinn said while HIQA does not yet have a legal mandate to engage in these services, it firmly believes that all vulnerable people in our society have a right to access high-quality and safe health and social care services.
He added that the continued absence of assurance in respect of the rights and needs of these vulnerable groups has the potential to create new hidden populations in our country.
Mr Quinn was addressing the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies' national conference on safeguarding vulnerable people taking place in Portlaoise.