A new private sector venture to offer 'companionship and non-medical care' to elderly people in their own homes was launched by the Tanaiste and Minister for Health, Mary Harney, today. The aim of the initiative is to allow older people to remain living at home for longer.

The for-profit venture, branded Comfort Keepers, is a US franchise operation. The Irish franchise is being operated by the Elder Healthcare Group, which operates four nursing homes in the mid-west region and is run by brothers Aus and Bob Power.

They plan to open ten offices in Dublin and around the country by April 2008 and employ up to 1,000 part time workers providing assistance to the elderly.

The business is seeking to take advantage of a €150m budget, from the Government, for the provision of new home and community supports for the elderly.