Call from Family Carers Loud and Clear

By Seamus Whelehan

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Despite all the signs of a return to growth almost 20,000 people in Cork County, who are registered as full time carers, are struggling to make ends meet Cllr Liam Quaide has claimed.

The Green Party Cllr made his comment in support of a Motion by Councillor Ben Dalton O’Sullivan calling on the Ministers for Health and Social Protection to implement a National Strategy and Action Plan to help improve the lives of carers.

He said tens of thousands of family carers are paying the price of the physical, mental and psychological impact of caring.

“Carers should be considered as a spectrum of individuals who require a range of services and options if their needs are to be adequately serviced by the State” said the Midleton based Cllr.

Currently there are 355,000 carers registered nationally, looking after our most vulnerable in society.

They provide almost 16 million hours of caring each week, which economists value as a cost saving of €10 billion annually to the State.

A survey carried out by the College of Psychiatrists has reported that over 50% of family carers experience a significant mental health issue, including depression and anxiety, primarily due to their caring role.

Independent Councillor Ben Dalton O’Sullivan, in delivering his Motion, said that in many cases the Government has put countless carers in a situation whereby they had to give up caring for their loved ones, thus forcing the State to take over the care of these people at a considerably higher cost than the cost of the grants they were paying to one family.

He said “what may seem as small changes to National Policy can lead to huge changes for the better, in the lives of carers in County Cork.”

Mr Dalton O’Sullivan said he wants to see the establishment of a confidential HSE service where carers can register to receive information from the Government on the supports and services to which they are entitled.

He said an increase in respite and home help hours is needed, along with free access to psychological supports, if the Government continues to say care in the home is the way forward.

Mr Dalton added that there is also a need to scrap the Means Test for the Carer’s Allowance.

The Carrigaline based Cllr said there is a belief among some carers that “it’s beyond ludicrous that the richest people in Ireland get Children’s Allowance, but if you educate yourself and get a decent job you don’t qualify for Carers Allowance.”

Green Cllr Liam Quaide said his Party, through Dublin Cllr Neasa Hourigan, had also sought the establishment of a national strategy for carers.

He said under his Party’s proposal, support services for carers would be partly designed by carers themselves at local level to ensure that the most appropriate services and supports are put in place.

The Midleton based Cllr added that a further education scheme focused on providing carers with the knowledge that may aid in a caring role, and Courses which may prepare them to return to work at some time in the future should also be considered.

He said third level education should be provided where a carer wishes to undertake healthcare based training that is of use in their caring capacity, and that they should be recognised as an employed healthcare professional with full employment rights.

Liz Maddox, Castlemartyr Family Carers and Disability Group, told the East Cork Journal she was hopeful it would get the backing at Government level which it deserves.

Ms Maddox added that while she welcomed this as a positive way forward, counselling services are also needed for individuals when the person they have cared for over many years, has passed on.

She said “there is a lot of emotional stress when a person has passed away, which very often limits the carer from moving on with the next stage of their life.”

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