Family Carers call for support in upcoming budget

by Rachel Cunningham
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Family Carers Ireland is calling on the government to demonstrate its commitment to Ireland’s 500,000 carers in the lead-up to the budget to be announced this month. 

Stating that the support of family carers must be reflected in the budget in both policy and financial terms, Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy for the charity, said: “Family carers are naturally very concerned that they will once again be forgotten in the upcoming budget. They worry every year, and rightly so, because family carers are usually forgotten.” 

“They’re the hidden frontline or invisible army of workers that care ‘out of love’, so the government knows that they’re not going to down tools in the morning. They’re not going to give up or go on strike. As a result, they’re ignored and that is the harsh and cruel reality, even though they save our state €20bn annually”, she added. 

Ms Cox said that kind words and noble statements made by the government in previous years must now be put into action. “What we are calling for this year is full recognition for the work that family carers do. We need to see the Carers Allowance means test abolished. Any family carer who has given up work, or who is providing full-time care for a loved one, should be properly compensated and supported. 

“Thousands of family carers are at breaking point, so the usual €5 per week budget increase is just not going to cut it. The expectation that family carers can provide 24/7 care for just €224 per week is simply indefensible, especially given the fact that only one in four carers receives the full rate”, she stated. 

Mother of three, Noelle Darmody, who cares for her two nonverbal sons with autism and intellectual difficulties, highlighted the strain that family carers are under. “The cost of food is going up all the time. Soaring fuel and electricity prices have brought a new urgency to the issue. It’s become challenging to provide my sons with the very few supports we do have that help, like charging our son’s speech device which is his only way of communicating. 

“We also drive over 500km a week, the cost of this is between €60 to €70. This is a cost directly connected to my sons ’disability, that most parents don’t have, and is a consequence of being a carer”, she explained. 

Ms Cox also called on the government to address the “gross inadequacy” of children’s disability services by extending the National Treatment Purchase Fund to include psychology, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy, stating that there are “thousands of children on waiting lists across the country for these vital supports.” 

“Cost of living pressures are most acute for our country’s family carers, and they simply can’t continue to plug the gap in our health service without better and on-going access to supports, therapies and early interventions. Denying children early intervention and therapies is denying them the right to develop to their full potential”, she added.

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