We will ensure carers are cared for – Minister for Health

Irish Independent

By Rosemary O’Grady

Tuesday May 31 2011

The distressing scenes in last night’s Prime Time Investigates programme on the plight of carers hammers home the reality of a dysfunctional health service, a spokesperson for Health Minister James Reilly said today.

The new government will find a way of refocusing priorities thus ensuring carers are cared for, the spokesman said.

Families are skipping meals to keep their heads above water, the Carers Association said today in the wake of a Prime Time investigates documentary that showed 82pc of carers have been affected by cutbacks in State services.

The programme, broadcast last night, showed the terrible toll Ireland’s economic restrictions have placed on families and backed up the association’s own findings that many family carers are living in poverty and very difficult circumstances.

Calling on the Government to introduce a strategy that will allow for the long-term continuation of care giving in the home, Carers Association spokesperson Catherine Cox said that many family carers are living below the poverty line.

“Families are literally skipping meals to keep their heads above water. Viewers may be shocked by the report’s findings but the Carers Association is already aware that this kind of hardship is commonplace for many family carers,” she said.

She pointed out that it was actually cheaper to provide a strategy of financial supports, home help, respite, training for parents and aids in this way rather than through residental or hospital care.

The plight of carers on Prime Time last night showed a number of examples where people responsible for minding family members were close to breaking point due to lack of support from the HSE.

The report also found that almost a quarter of carers have suffered health problems from an overburden of work.

“We know there are more cuts to come with no regard or appreciation for the role of family carers who are providing vital and often round-the-clock care.

“These cuts are forcing carers to place their loved ones in hospital or residential care settings, costing Government more and going against stated Government policy of supporting the care of older people and those with disabilities in the home.

“Family carers have taken as much as they can. This is a call for action from our new Government.

“We simply cannot continue to ignore this burning issue and we want the immediate completion and implementation of the National Carers Strategy,” she said.

“This strategy is crucial for the long term continuation of care in the home, putting in place practical supports and services for family carers including in-home respite, needs assessment for family carers, financial and emotional support and timely information provision,” Ms Cox added.