Carers contributions must be recognised by government

27 June 2019

Labour TD for Fingal, Brendan Ryan, spoke in favour of his party’s motion in support of carers in Dáil Éireann this week. The Labour Party motion called for measures such as the phasing out of means testing on carers allowance and increased supports for carers who face isolation and poor health themselves.  

Deputy Ryan said;

“The Labour Party has always been a strong advocate for carers. With this motion, we seek to address outstanding issues impacting the daily life and well being of Carers, such as the eligibility attached to means-testing. We are also asking the government to conduct a study of the income and living costs of carers, to ensure that income supports are sufficient to ensure all carers can attain a decent minimum standard of living for themselves.

“With this Motion, Labour wants to give a voice to carers as all too often, people who are caring for a loved one are doing so in isolation. That is why we need a new National Carer’s Strategy. We need a strategy that recognises the value of carers. That recognises how much the state benefits from carers. That recognises how much the Carer’s save 

“It is difficult to quantify just how many carers there are in Ireland at any one time. But we all know at least one person in our personal life who is providing full-time care to a loved one. It is likely we know more than one. As local representatives, we meet dozens if not hundreds of carers during our time in office. Indeed, many of us in this chamber have been carers or lived in a home in which full care is being provided. In that case, we know the commitment, the compassion and in the words of our Motion, the inestimable value carers provide to our society. 

“Currently, one in ten people is now involved in caring. According to Family Carers Ireland, that figure is set to rise to one in five by 2030.  If every one of those carers were to down tools in the morning, the impact that would have on our health system is incalculable. Carers take the pressure off acute hospital beds and A&E’s and they give those they care for the comfort of their own home, which assists with better medical outcomes.

“Caring for a loved one has a knock on effect not only for the carer’s themselves but on their families and their loved ones. A great many carers are under stress with significant increases in the numbers reporting poor health, including depression and anxiety. 

“The Care Alliance of Ireland estimate there are approximately 375,000 Carer’s in Ireland now. That is 375,000 people many of whom will have the added on issues I mentioned such as dealing with the impact on their own lives as well as dealing with stress and anxiety issues. 

“The Carer’s Alliance of Ireland also estimated that the official number of young carers is grossly underestimated, The figures for young carers according to the 2016 census is 13,000. However, the Health Behaviour in School Children survey in 2014 reported that 56,118 children between the ages of 10 and 17 are providing some form of care across Ireland. 

“Just think of the impact that has on the lives of young people. The impact it has on their social life, their ability to study, to meet with friends, to relax from the pressures of school and exams. If this progresses, it can further limit the ability of young carers to transition to further education or indeed employment as the financial costs as well as the time needed to prepare 

“Existing State supports do not go far enough. Too many carers are suffering burn out and serious ill health as a result of the stress and strain of their care work. I hope that the Government will accept that we do need to do more. There are too many rules and requirements attached to carer payments that unnecessarily restrict people’s ability to balance care work with studies or paid work.

“Carer’s Allowance should not be taxed, and the means test needs to be urgently updated, and the Labour Party wants to see it eventually phased out. Yet carers are always the unsung heroes. They experience isolation, poor health and increasing numbers are suffering from burn out. This is not helped by the lack of provision of adequate home help hours and respite care. Most carers are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“Carers require support in their caring journey and accordance with their individual needs. Labour’s motion recognises the contribution made by carers. It is time this government did the same.”

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