Family carers now saving the state €20bn a year
Figures published today by the CSO from the Irish Health Survey 2019 estimate that 1 in 8 people in Ireland aged over 15 are family carers. Extrapolation to the national population estimates currently available suggests that some 516,594 people provide regular unpaid care. Previous estimates put this figure at 355,000.
Family carers have played a hugely significant role in suppressing Covid-19 and supporting the healthcare system. When services were shut down or curtailed, family carers continued to care around the clock to ensure that loved ones stayed safe at home and out of hospital.
Family Carers Ireland says that given the growing number of people taking on family caring roles, it is more important than ever that the Government lives up to its promise (included in the Programme for Government) to deliver a “Carers Guarantee” that will provide a core basket of services to family carers across the country regardless of where they live.
Access to essential supports such as respite, home care and training is currently subject to a ‘postcode lottery’, whereby where a person lives, rather than what they need, will determine if they can access a service or not.
Reacting to today’s CSO publication, Catherine Cox Head of Communications and Policy with Family Carers Ireland said:
"These figures are a timely reminder of just how important it is that we recognise and support family carers. We now estimate that family carers save the State in excess of €20bn every year. They reduce the pressure on our hospital beds by keeping loved ones at home, where they wish to be, and keep them safe, particularly during these most difficult of times.”
Family Carers Ireland’s 'Carers Guarantee’ proposal includes the delivery of a core basket of services to carers across the country regardless of where they live. These services will include: access to emergency respite; intensive one-to-one support for carers in crisis; a suite of training programmes ranging from basic care skills workshops to QQI accredited ‘Caring with Confidence’ training; targeted support groups and networks for carers and access to information and advocacy clinics in local community centres, primary care centres and hospitals.
Ending the current ‘postcode lottery’ would have an immediate practical impact on the welfare and resilience of family carers. It would also directly assist the continuing reorientation to primary care services, as part of Sláintecare, by allowing these services to be factored into the design of care plans and help free up hospital beds.
“Family carers have been under appreciated, inadequately supported and taken for granted by successive governments. This has gone on for far too long. We firmly believe that no one should have to care alone,” concluded Ms. Cox.