Family Carers Ireland call on Government to honour pre-election commitments and make carers count in Budget 2017

Family Carers Ireland presents Pre-Budget 2017 Submission

Family Carers Ireland are presenting their Pre-Budget 2017 Submission, titled ‘Achieving Fairness for Family Carers’, to Government in Dublin today.

Family Carers Ireland received a written commitment from each political party during Election 2016, that if elected, they would publish a refreshed National Carers’ Strategy, backed by dedicated funding to support its implementation. Today Family Carers Ireland are urging Government to stand by those promises to publishing a renewed National Carers’ Strategy setting out a clear action plan for 2017-2021, backed with ring-fenced funding and to prioritise key issues facing Ireland’s 200,000 family carers in Budget 2017.

Family carers are Ireland’s unseen workforce, contributing 6.2 million hours of unpaid care each week; saving the State €4 billion each year. Respite care is universally regarded as one of the key support interventions to support the health and wellbeing of carers and is critical to the sustainability of caregiving efforts. Despite its importance, funding cuts, staff shortages and bed closures as a result of inspections have greatly reduced respite availability and denied many carers this vital support. Respite must be demand rather than resource led.

“Family carers save the State four billion euro each year. Despite this, many carers are finding it increasingly difficult to access services and respite, an essential support for their health and wellbeing. We are asking the Government in Budget 2017 to commit to investing in increased respite and supports for family carers and young carers” said Catherine Cox, Family Carers Ireland.

Today’s presentation will hear from family carer Mary McDonnell from Cork. Mary (78) has provided full-time care for her daughter Sinead for over 50 years. Sinead is a person with serious physical disabilities – she has profound Cerebral Palsy (diagnosed at just 10 months), has Scoliosis and is a wheel-chair user. Sinead’s care is now the definition of ‘round-the-clock’. Increased medication has meant a special diet and constant feeding supervision. She is in constant pain. Mary, as an older carer, finds her caring role challenging and bureaucracy very tough trying to access vital supports and services, in particular respite.

The Pre-Budget Submission calls on Government to ensure that family carers are not financially burdened as a result of caring for their loved ones and that the resources, services and supports necessary are in place for them to care with confidence and safety in the home. It also asks that the estimated 56,118* young carers (under 18) are recognised as a vulnerable group with a need for cross-departmental support.

Family Carers Ireland are presenting a number of recommendations to Government that will make the best use of allocated budgets for family carers in Budget 2017:

  1. Publish, fund and implement Phase Two of the National Carers’ Strategy.
  2. Ensure family carers are not financially burdened as a result of their caring role. Family carers have been adversely affected by cuts in health and social care spending during recent years of austerity. Family Carers are asking Government to increase carers’ Carers Allowance, Carers Benefit and Disability Allowance and reduce prescription charges.
  3. Create a more ‘carer friendly’ health service, eliminating red tape and delays and introduce flexible and appropriate respite options with equality of access.
  4. Recognise the home as a centre of care and the role of family carers as ‘care partners’ who provide over 6 million hours of unpaid care each week.
  5. Invest in the future of young carers, many of whom miss out on education and remain hidden from services due to fear, family loyalty, stigma, and not knowing where to get help.

Despite the enormity of their contribution, family carers are 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. While efforts have been made to reverse some of these cuts imposed during the economic crisis, with Ireland’s economy now in recovery Family Carers Ireland are calling on the Government to prioritise family carers.

Family Carers Ireland will hold Government to account in Budget 2017 and expect that the promises made in the run up to Election 2016 and committed to in the Programme for Government will be delivered.