Time to show real support for carers

 

Sir, – Watching The Late Late show on Saturday night I was filled with many mixed emotions – sadness, hope but also profound anger. Sadness, in particular for the Hollands who spoke about the passing of their beautiful little girl Emmeline, but also hope for their future and the news of their expected new arrival. I was moved by the response from the general public to the appeal for funds raising almost half a million euro but also very angry that we live in a country where we have to fund-raise for basic health supports and services for our sickest children and their carers.

As one family carer put it recently, “We have to beg for our supper – for wheelchairs, for oxygen for our home”. She is a 73-year-old Cork woman caring for her husband who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Parkinson’s disease. She has reached burn-out.

The last 10 years have been a decade lost for family carers with successive governments failing them. Research published in 2019 conducted by Family Carers Ireland, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and UCD shows that services and supports for family carers have deteriorated significantly between 2009 and 2019, as have carers’ own physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Carer’s allowance, which is the weekly payment for full-time carers, is less today than it was in 2008. Only one in four carers get this payment because it is means-tested and the income disregard has not increased since 2008.

Family carers are workers; they are the ones that get up early in the morning and, in most cases, many times throughout the night. They save the State €10 billion every year, yet they are not recognised, valued or supported in their roles. They are patronised, patted on the back and told how great they are.

No one should have to care alone but unfortunately thousands of carers are doing just this across the country. We are asking all candidates who are running in the upcoming election what will they do to support Ireland’s 355,000 family carers if they get elected.

Will they reform the means-test for carer’s allowance? Will they abolish the postcode lottery that exists in carer supports and services whereby where you live determines what you will or will not get? Will they increase funding to ensure demand-led homecare provision? Will they commit to a right to 20 days of respite for all full-time family carers? Will they abolish waiting lists for essential therapies for children with disabilities, or will they do what has been done for the last 10 years – pay lip-service to carers, tell them how great they are, throw them a few bones and then leave them to struggle?

No one should have to care alone – caring should be a shared responsibility between the family, the community and the State. It’s time to support Ireland’s 355,000 family carers. – Yours, etc,

CATHERINE COX,

Head of Communications

and Carer Engagement,

Family Carers Ireland,

Kilkenny.