Government urged to reverse stance on carers

Fri, Mar 6, 2009, 00:00

Age Action has today called on the Government to reverse its decision to scrap the national strategy for carers.

After a meeting with carers earlier in the week, Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin said the economic downturn meant it would be difficult for the Government to commit to any advances in services and supports for carers in the home.

The pledge to publish a national carers’ strategy was a key component of the social provisions in in the programme for government and the national partnership agreement.

The Government’s decision was today described as a "serious setback" by Age Action, which says 160,000 family carers are currently caring for a loved one.

“With an ageing population, and factors which are expected to result in a falling number of people willing to be carers, the strategy is essential if we are to plan for the future,” said Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins.

“Family carers are an important part of the support structure to enabling older people remain living in their own homes, rather than having to go into a residential home. The needs of carers need to be addressed, considering the level of care they provide and the huge savings they provide for the State.”

Mr Timmins said although the economic crisis may make it difficult to implement some recommendations sought by carers, "it is not a sound reason for not proceeding with a national strategy".

“In the current economic climate, it may not be possible to proceed with some of the pay elements in the strategy, but there are non-pay elements which could be introduced as evidence that the Government recognises and values the contribution which carers are making,” Mr Timmins said.

Mr Timmins added that as members of the social partnership process, Age Action "does not accept that this key commitment [of the Towards 2016 agreement] can be dropped in this fashion".

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin today called for the reversal of the “appalling” decision. He accused the Government of insulting the 160,000 family carers who work saves the State millions of euro each year and claimed the decision was in breach of the Towards 2016 Agreement.

“This appalling decision shows clearly that the Fianna Fáil-Green Government has no real concept of planning for people’s needs. They see the Strategy only in terms of euros and cents and because of the collapse in public finances they scrap it altogether. They forget that a Strategy will still be needed – in fact needed more than ever because of our ageing population – when the public finances eventually recover.”

Carers groups and Opposition parties had claimed the Government was trying to “bury bad news” by announcing the decision on Tuesday, the same day as some of the worst Exchequer returns in decades .

Commenting on the Government's decision, Ms Hanafin said: “The economic situation we are all facing makes it difficult to commit to major advances in services for carers. I appreciate that it will be disappointing for carers and the people for whom they care that we are unable to publish a strategy."