Sunday 18 August 2019

Carers under 10 and in their 80s saving the State billions

Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler. Picture: Collins
Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler. Picture: Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A hidden army of more than 195,000 carers, including children under 10 years of age, are saving the State billions of euro through unpaid work.

The latest Census figures show that some 3,800 of this number are children and some of the country's 195,263 carers are aged in their 80s.

The shocking figures highlight how 29,311 carers are pensioners, which is a rise of 18.5pc in just five years.

As the population ages more older people are being cast in the role.

These pensioners are providing 1.43 million hours of care per week - a rise of 12pc in just five years.

There was a 34.7pc rise in carers aged 85 or older - an increase from 1,318 to 1,776 in five years.

The Family Carers Ireland organisation say the real number is likely to be 160,000 more because many don't identify themselves as carers until in crisis.

It is estimated that one in 20 people in Ireland is a family carer, collectively providing €10bn in unpaid care each year.

For nearly one in 10 carers their role of looking after a loved one endures seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Overall, carers nationally are providing 6.6 million hours of unpaid care every week, according to the Census.

This works out at an average of 38.7 hours per carer a week.

Many are shouldering the burden without the carer's allowance or the back-up of a HSE homecare worker.

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Catherine Cox of Family Carers Ireland said the lack of respite services is driving more carers to burn out.

She added: "Emergency respite is a huge issue - what happens when a family carer suddenly can't provide care? What happens to their loved ones?"

The Census shows that 60.5pc of carers are women. More than half are in their 40s or 50s.

Dublin city has the highest number of carers at 20,808, followed by Cork, south Dublin and Fingal. Sligo has the highest proportion of its population involved in unpaid care. This is followed by counties Mayo, Clare and Kerry.

The number of young carers under the age of 15 fell by 428 from 4,228 in the last census.

Half of the children are under 10 years of age.

The majority of these young people are providing two hours of care a day. But there are 133 children giving as many as 12 hours' care a day, amounting to 20,588 hours a week.

The Census shows that children under the age of 15 are spending 2.2 million hours a year supporting a family member who is ill or has a disability.

The data emphasises the urgency in setting up a statutory scheme to provide homecare for thousands of families across the country.

In the meantime, many carers have no HSE homecare support or else very limited hours, leaving them to shoulder the heavy and draining responsibility even though their own health may be under pressure.

Commenting on the figures Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on older people Deputy Mary Butler has said that she is deeply concerned by the increase in the number of elderly acting as carers for loved ones and relatives.

"This is a major worry to me. These dedicated people are fulfilling the role of the State in providing care to those living with illness or disability.

"My concern is who is looking after the carers? These carers also have needs. Older people are not receiving the supports they need.

Irish Independent

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