Warning over holiday strain on carers

Thousands of carers struggle to cope over the festive season as a vast number of services and special needs schools shut down, it was warned today.

Enda Egan, chief executive of the Carers Association, said many of the country’s 150,000 carers were left without any rest breaks and support as many respite centres, day care facilities and special needs schools close.

“There are a couple of factors coming together at Christmas time, a lot of services, but not all, close down. There is extra pressure on the carers, as a lot of breaks they get, even if they were minimal, are not there over Christmas,” he said.

Mr Egan said it was very difficult for carers to participate in activities over the festive season with the lack of relief breaks.

“A lot of services run by health boards such as day care centres and schools close,” he said, adding that some services like home care packages would continue.

The association confirmed that some services, which are run by voluntary groups, will still be open over the period.

Mr Egan said the Carers Association received a large number of calls from carers worried about how they will cope over the festive season, both in terms of services and financially.

With the carer’s allowance from the state being means-tested, he said some pensioners, and particularly widowers, providing care may be close to the poverty line.

“In a carer’s home the cost of living is higher, as their heating bills and a lot of other factors, which can be quite small but makes life a lot more difficult,” he said.

A report from the Equality Authority, Implementing Equality For Carers, found the carers’ role was not valued – with inadequate income supports, isolation and a sense that their voice went unheard in decision-making.

In the Budget the Government said it was placing an increasing emphasis on the role of community care in supporting people wishing to be looked after in their own homes.

The carer’s allowance for all over 66 was increased to €200 and the respite care grant rose to €1,200as part of a range of improvements.

But Mr Egan said the Government must move to introduce a comprehensive national strategy for family carers to cater for long-term problems.

The Carers Association said around 150,000 people in the state were providing three million hours of care work each week for the economy.

“There is no-one strategically planning for family care in the long term,” he said.

Mr Egan said the association was getting an increasing number of phone calls from people who want to care for a loved one at home but could not afford to give up work for financial reasons.

“The Government needs to plan ahead and form policies to care for people as long as possible in their own homes. They have to ensure family members will be looked after in the home and given the support and training for the job,” he said.

“We need a national strategy that plans ahead three or five years at a time. They must make that a practical reality or more will have to have institutional care,” he said.


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