43 per cent of Government’s National Carers’ Strategy’s objectives have seen acceptable progress

43 per cent of Government’s National Carers’ Strategy’s objectives have seen acceptable progress

Family Carers Ireland publishes final ‘Score Card’ on the National Carers’ Strategy

12/9/2017 Family Carers Ireland today launches its fourth ‘Family Carers’ Scorecard’ reviewing progress of the National Carers’ Strategy and appealing for a new, funded strategy in Budget 2018. Ireland’s first National Carers’ Strategy, published in 2012, has now run its course. However, from a carers’ perspective, only 18 of 42 actions have achieved acceptable progress.

“Family carers were willing to accept a cost-neutral strategy in 2012 as a token of recognition for their work when the country was in financial crisis. We have now exhausted all possibilities of further progress without investment. In Budget 2018, we have asked Government for dedicated funding for the next National Carers’ Strategy 2018-2022 to address the serious issues and concerns faced by family carers” said Catherine Cox, Family Carers Ireland.

“We need respite care urgently to give family carers a vital break – and we are seeing the physical and mental health of carers across the country compromised due to lack of supports. Family carers not being involved in planning the care of their loved ones remains a serious issue. Carers still report feeling side-lined or uninformed, and under-equipped to take on the role of caring for a loved one discharged from hospital. The existing six-step HSE guide to discharge and transfer from hospital is simply not having the desired effect.

Family carers also need financial support, particularly to help with the hidden costs of caring. These can include everyday costs such as increased heating and electricity bills and can extend to adaptation of the home. On this last point it is essential that the Housing Adaptation Grant crisis is resolved.”

Almost all of us will either provide or require care at some stage in our lives. 2015 figures from the Central Statistics Office suggest that 10 per cent of the population provide care, which would be approximately 360,000 people*.

Of the 42 objectives in the National Carers’ Strategy, one action has been implemented in full and is making a real difference to family carers’ lives. Seventeen actions have received a ‘Good Progress’ score; 11 have received ‘initial progress’; 8 have received ‘No Progress’ and 5 have received a ‘Regressive’ score, meaning the situation has worsened for family carers since the strategy was launched. These include:

– A serious lack of respite care, vital to give family carers a much-needed break to continue their caring work. Due to funding cuts, staff shortages and bed closures because of HIQA inspections, respite has become almost non-existent – a serious issue for family carers.
– Family carers should be considered as partners in care planning by health and social service providers. This relates to discharge planning from hospital to homecare and is simply not happening. The lived experience of family carers in this regard is very poor, with often no documented care plans or supports in place to help family carers provide care in a safe and dignified manner.
– Problems with the Housing Adaptation Grant scheme persist around the country – despite an older population increase of 36 per cent since 2006. Eligibility for the scheme has been tightened to the point where those in genuine need are not eligible. While funding is slowly being restored and currently stands at €56m, it is still significantly below the funding level paid in 2010 of €95m. Long waiting lists are seen in many Local Authorities and timeliness is a huge issue, as needs may significantly deteriorate while an applicant is waiting.
– On a more positive note, Government have expressed a willingness and ambition to tackle the issue of financing home and community care. This is evidenced by the terms of reference of the Committee on the Future of Healthcare and by the announcement of a public consultation to establish a new statutory homecare scheme.
– Equally positive has been the improving level of engagement from Government departments with family carers over the lifetime of the Strategy.

Speaking at today’s launch is Shirley Thornton from Dublin. Alongside parenting her son, Lewis (11) alone, Shirley was the sole carer for her parents. Following the passing of her father Lewis (87), she now cares full-time for her mother Eva (83) at home. Shirley has faced and still faces many challenges, including not being given her allocated home help hours and having to focus on minding herself, to care for three other people.

Also present at the launch was Young Carer of the Year 2016, Úna McNicholas (18), who helps care for her older sister Elizabeth (28) for the past eight years. Elizabeth was healthy and active up to the age of 18 when she suddenly became ill. She is now with severe brain and spinal injuries and has developed a sleeping disorder and Adrenal Insufficiency – a life-threatening condition. She is confined to her bed, and uses a wheelchair when she is up. Úna misses out on some of the activities of her class mates and loves school, which she considers ‘a break’. She had to take care of her sister when her dad had a heart attack last year.

“Government has said that carers are a backbone of care provision in Ireland. They need to back this up with a properly funded, new National Carers’ Strategy” said Catherine Cox, speaking at today’s launch of Family Carers Ireland’s ‘Family Carers’ Scorecard’ in Dublin.
Family Carers Ireland provides a range of supports and services for family carers through its 22 resource centres nationwide and advocates fairness for carers. The organisation is currently running it’s ‘Share the Care’ campaign to help family carers self-identify and seek supports.
For more information or interview, please contact:
Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Carer Engagement, Family Carers Ireland, 086 852 1611 / ccox@familycarers.ie
Mary Tallent Phelan, 085 8018946 / mary@purcellmasterson.com
Bridget O’Dea, 0831717950 / bridget@purcellmasterson.com
Photography by Mark Stedman – 086 3679394
* CSO’s Irish Health Survey 2015 suggests 10 percent of the population aged over 16 years are carers providing an average of 45 hours of care each week.