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The physical and mental health of carers is being compromised due to a lack of supports, an advocacy group has said.
Family Carers Ireland said less than half of the 42 actions promised in the Government’s National Carers’ Strategy published in 2012 had seen acceptable progress.
The organisation published its fourth ‘score card’ on the strategy on Tuesday and appealed for a new one in Budget 2018.
“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,” said Catherine Cox of Family Carers Ireland.
“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.
“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,” Ms Cox said.
The problems included a “serious lack” of respite care.
“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.”
The organisation said that despite an increase of 36 per cent in the older population 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 €56 million, it is still significantly below the funding level paid in 2010 of €95 million. 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.”
The organisation also said family carers should had 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,” it said.
The organisation welcomed that the Government had expressed a willingness to tackle the issue of financing home and community care.
It said this was 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.
Ms Cox said 2015 figures from the Central Statistics Office suggested that 10 per cent of the population provides care, which equates to about 360,000 people.
Speaking at the event in Dublin was Shirley Thornton from Dublin, who parents her 11-year-old son Lewis alone and 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.
Ms Thornton said she had faced, and still faces, many challenges, including not being given her allocated home help hours.