Carers to urge election candidates to back ‘fairness’ campaign

Family Carers Ireland lobby group in push for recognition of members’ unpaid work

Family Carers Ireland members said they were not looking for “the sun, moon and stars”, but wanted to be treated fairly.  File photograph: Getty Images

Family Carers Ireland members said they were not looking for “the sun, moon and stars”, but wanted to be treated fairly. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Family carers have been urged to fill in a canvassing card to present to general election candidates, urging them to support their unpaid work and their contribution to society.

Launching its pre-election campaign outside Leinster House shortly after the Dáil was dissolved, Family Carers Ireland members said they were not looking for “the sun, moon and stars”, but wanted to be treated fairly.

The campaign, titled Election 2016: Achieving Fairness for Family Carers, notes that nearly 200,000 family carers provide 6,287,510 hours of unpaid care each week in the State.

The organisation claims this work saves the State €4 billion each year, but that many family carers are still struggling.

“Each year vital respite, home, day and residential care services are reduced as a result of a €2.7 billion cut in health and social care spending since 2009,” the organisation said.

Many carers were finding it more and more difficult to get respite and access services.

“Isolation, financial hardship, depression, stress, poor health and exclusion from paid work remain hallmarks of many carers’ lives,” said head of communications Catherine Cox.

‘Real supports’

“With an ageing population, care in the home is one of the biggest health service issues facing the incoming government. We are asking politicians to commit to investing in and implementing real supports for family carers that fit with the realities of caring in Ireland today.”

The organisation, formed last month in a merger between the Carers Association and Caring for Carers, asked election candidates to make five key commitments to carers.

It asked that they not be financially burdened due to their caring role, and sought a more “carer friendly” health service, eliminating red tape and delays.

It also called for investment in the future of young carers.

It said there were an estimated 56,118 young carers aged 10 to 17, but many remained hidden from services due to fear, family loyalty, stigma, and not knowing where to get help.

The body called for the publication, funding and implementation of the second phase of the National Carers’ Strategy, and for a commitment to supporting issues affecting carers nationally and locally.

Medical card

Speaking at the event in Dublin, mother-of-four Rosemary Kratschmar said all parents of children with special needs should have an automatic right to a medical card.

Ms Kratschmar cares for her son Sammy (23), who has Down syndrome.

“It is enough that we have the emotional, physical and mental strain in our lives as we care for our loved ones without adding further to the stressful situation by financial worries,” she said.

Jamie Mooney (19), from Shankill, who was awarded Young Carer of the Year in 2014, has provided care since he was six years old for his mother Sabrina, who has epilepsy.

Mr Mooney said his work caring for her meant that he sometimes missed out on school. He also had health issues and is being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

He asked that the incoming government help support the “hidden army” of young carers in Ireland.

Antoinette Norris from Finglas, a mother of five children, including two with special needs, was also present at Leinster House to support the campaign.

Ms Norris said once her daughter Demi had turned 18, supports that had previously been available to her were taken away.