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family carers ireland

Calls for national audit on respite places as Census shows marked increase in unpaid carers

Census 2022 figures published this week show that over 299,000 people identify as unpaid carers.

CALLS HAVE BEEN made for a national audit to evaluate the availability of respite places throughout Ireland after new Census figures have shown a marked increase in the number of people identifying as family carers. 

Census 2022 figures published this week show that over 299,000 people identify as unpaid carers, an increase of 53% on 2016. 

There was also an increase in the number of hours of care provided each week, with the largest increase among people providing care for 43 hours of more per week, up 111%. 

People aged between 50 and 59 were the group most likely to be providing regular unpaid care. 

In Mayo, 7% of the population identify as unpaid carers, the highest in Ireland. Dublin City had the lowest proportion of the population providing unpaid care at 5% of the population. 

In a statement today, Family Carers Ireland said that “the current state of respite services in Ireland is a matter of serious concern that demands immediate attention”. 

“Over the years, the number of family carers has increased while the availability and quality of respite care has steadily declined, leaving many in a precarious situation,” the charity said. 

“This concerning trend places an overwhelming burden on family carers who provide care for their loved ones with limited or zero opportunities for a break.” 

Family Carers Ireland is calling for a comprehensive national audit to be carried out to examine the availability of respite places throughout Ireland. 

It is also calling for a minimum annual entitlement of 20 days of respite for full-time family carers in line with the statutory leave afforded to paid employees. 

The charity also wants the establishment of a respite register which it believes “is crucial for effective resource allocation and service improvements while ensuring that family carers receive the support they require to maintain their wellbeing and avoid burnout”. 

“Family Carers Ireland believes that a national audit of respite places is now essential to gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation, including factors such as availability, accessibility, capacity and the overall quality of respite care,” Catherline Cox, head of communications and policy with Family Carers Ireland, said.

“By conducting this audit, we can accurately assess the needs of family carers and identify the gaps that exist within the system. We can also ensure that there are appropriate residential places for adults requiring long-term care in the future,” Cox said. 

“Family carers lived through Covid-19 with little help, support or homecare and no respite,” she said. 

Cox added that it is “now imperative that we acknowledge their significant contributions by providing the necessary support systems to ensure their physical and mental well-being”.

“We urge the Government, policymakers and the relevant authorities to heed our call for a national audit on respite provision. By prioritising this initiative, we can work towards enhancing the support available to family carers and addressing the gaps in respite care services across the country,” she said. 

On Tuesday, Sinn Féin brought a motion forward calling on the Government to work with stakeholders and service providers across the carer sector to address their immediate workforce and facility needs. 

It also called on the Government to leverage all existing capacity in the sector to support the re-opening of closed respite centres, maintain existing capacity in the sector and prevent further closures. 

“The Government isn’t listening to people with disabilities. It is time they gave them and their families a break and provide vital respite services,” Sinn Féin spokesperson on disability Pauline Tully said in a statement on Sunday. 

“The Government is failing on assessments of needs, services and respite care,” Tully said. 

“Respite and short break services play an essential role in supporting familiar carers and people with disabilities,” she said. 

Tully said that adopting the measures laid out in the motion “would give people with disabilities and their families the care, services and support they need”. 

Yesterday, Independent TD Michael Collins said there was “nightmare levels of service deficit for intellectual and disability respite care” currently afflicting his constituency of Cork South-West. 

The Department of Social Protection has been contacted for comment regarding Family Carers Ireland’s calls. 

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