New ‘Family Carers Ireland’ to benefit over 200,000 family carers

The Carers Association and Caring for Carers merge creating a stronger, national voice

A new organisation for family carers was launched on Wednesday 13th January 2016 by Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton called Family Carers Ireland. The Carers Association and Caring for Carers have merged to form the new entity, set to benefit Ireland’s over 200,000 family carers.

The merger means that Family Carers Ireland, employing 800 people, will pool best practice, resources and experience from both organisations to create one stronger, national voice and an increased range of supports and services for family carers. The organisation will now be able to offer more resource centres and services to those in rural and isolated areas as well as stronger supports where existing centres are already located.

New supports and services provided by Family Carers Ireland include:

  • 24 Resource Centres across the country providing information and support
  • Over 150 training courses (including First Aid and Patient Moving and Handling)
  • An extension of its Freefone National Careline from five to seven days a week, increasing availability for the over 5,000 calls received on average each year
  • Better geographic spread of personnel and services, particularly to family carers in rural areas.
  • In-home respite services (provided over 350,000 in-home respite hours in 2014)
  • Working with over 150 family carers support groups across the country providing peer support and practical workshops

“Both The Carers Association and Caring for Carers voted by an overwhelming majority to merge and form one, united organisation last February. Today marks a very exciting milestone as we launch Family Carers Ireland and announce all the benefits our new organisation brings family carers” said Catherine Cox, Head of Communications, Family Carers Ireland.

“Family Carers Ireland is sustainable and in a better position to support, lobby for and advocate on behalf of Ireland’s family carers. We look forward to an improved network of support for family carers in Ireland and to gaining greater recognition for the voices of family carers.”

Speaking at the event Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., said; “Carers play an absolutely invaluable role in society, and it is vital there is a proper support network for carers to tap into. Family Carers Ireland will fulfil that role. In the most recent Budget, we restored the Carer’s Support Grant (formerly the Respite Care Grant) to €1,750. We also doubled the period during which carer’s allowance is paid following the death of a care recipient, and we paid a 75% Christmas bonus to benefit carers as well as a wide range of other people in receipt of welfare supports. I’m pleased to confirm today that, in addition to those measures, I have approved the payment of €1 million under the Dormant Accounts Action Plan for 16 projects that will provide training and supports for carers in 2016. This includes a €300,000 allocation for training and support measures that will benefit the newly formed Family Carers Ireland. I welcome the establishment of Family Carers Ireland and look forward to working with you to ensure that the existing framework of supports for carers is enhanced”.

Most Irish people will either provide or receive care at some point in their lives and Family Carers Ireland are today unveiling a new exhibition of portraits titled ‘We Care, Do You?’ The exhibition features people of all ages from all walks of life, including patrons of Family Carers Ireland, Mary Kennedy and Marty Whelan also attending the launch, John Dunne, CEO of Family carers Ireland and Young Carer Jamie Mooney (19), who have all provided family care. The final ‘portrait’ will be a mirror which depicts that you and me will likely provide or require care in the future, making Family Carers Ireland an organisation relevant to each and every one of us.

Presenting their caring roles at today’s launch is Damien Douglas, Lucan, Co. Dublin who gave up his nursing career in June 2013 to provide full-time care for his daughters, Ailis and Una (20). The twins are people with profound disabilities and require full-time care. They are wheelchair users, are tube and peg-fed and are incontinent. Damien says “they can’t do anything for themselves, only smile.” Cora Long will also present her caring role and how the merger will positively affect family carers. Cora cared for her husband Tom for nine years. Following a complication from Sleep Apnoea, Tom acquired a brain injury requiring round-the-clock care for six of those years.

The Carers Association and Caring for Carers were both founded 25 years ago in Dublin and Clare respectively. Family Carers Ireland will continue to provide existing services offered by both organisations including training, support services, respite care, respite weekend breaks, nurse-led clinics, a dedicated helpline for family carers, research and policy development and assistance with legal/mediation services.

Family carers are at the centre of Family Carers Ireland. The new organisation is “owned” by local support groups and issues are fed directly from carers to Family Carers Ireland which informs policy and the strategic plan for each location.

With Ireland’s ageing population, adequate supports and services for carers are needed more than ever. According to recent figures from the Central Statistics Office, there has been an estimated increase of almost 25 per cent in those over the age of 65 since the last Census. Family Carers Ireland are in discussion with the Central Statistics Office to inform questions around family carers.

John Dunne has been appointed CEO of Family Carers Ireland which employs 800 people, the majority of whom are front-line respite care staff. There will be no job losses and permanent staff at both organisations are guaranteed continued employment on their existing terms and conditions.

The merger provides significant scope for efficiencies, freeing up resources for more frontline services and supports. All existing services will continue to operate and the HSE has agreed that there will be no immediate funding cuts as a result of the merger.