Support groups merge to give stronger voice to 200,000 carers
"You could be a carer without realising - I was without even knowing [it]," said Jamie Mooney from Shankill in Dublin.
The 18-year-old, who is himself recovering after a bout of cancer, has been looking after his mother Sabrina since he was a boy of six.
Sabrina had meningitis at 19 and, after suffering a stroke, developed epilepsy. She recently went through a rough patch when she changed her medication.
At a young age, Jamie learned to be someone Sabrina could rely on.
"It was just normal for me," said Jamie, who was speaking at the launch of Family Carers Ireland. The new group was formed from the merger of two separate organisations, the Carers Association and Caring for Carers.
The new body, which was launched yesterday by Tánaiste Joan Burton, was created to give a stronger national voice for the 200,000 people who care for loved ones on a full-time basis.
With an expected annual budget of around €10m, and some 800 staff members, it will focus on the increased demand for support services for carers.
Chief executive of Family Carers Ireland John Dunne explained the two organisations had merged because they faced the challenge of diverting funds towards administration rather than frontline services.
Carer Barbara Kovach, whose son Liam (14) has Down's syndrome, explained that it is not her current caring for her son that worries her, but the future when he turns 18 and can no longer attend school.
The mother from Cashel, Co Tipperary, who is on the board of the new association, says she intends to fight for the right of people like her son to have access to proper services.