Monday 26 August 2019

Ireland's Carer Crisis: Children forced to care for family are 'invisible' and hurting prospects

Criticism: Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says carers issue is ‘not one of concern’ to Government. Photo: Tom Burke
Criticism: Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says carers issue is ‘not one of concern’ to Government. Photo: Tom Burke
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

There is a lack of clarity in just how many young people care for loved ones in Ireland - a fact "curtailing" the future of thousands of "invisible" children.

Family Carers Ireland (FCI) warns that without better supports, these children will not reach their full potential.

It warned the State doesn't appear to be actively monitoring the issue or drawing up plans on how to help young carers.

The group has pointed out that being a young carer can impact on children's education, how young people perform in class, how they socialise and their future careers.

Marian Mahon, from FCI, said: "If young carers aren't being identified, they're not being supported. There needs to be a lot more information provided to teachers and advocates to be aware of and look for the signs of those caring under the age of 18.

"If there's no statistics, the Government doesn't have to do anything because the information isn't there.

"These young people are invisible, that's the truth. If they (the Government) acknowledge there's a certain amount of young carers, then they'll have to do something for them.

"The bottom line is we are aware of young carers out there not being acknowledged or supported in any way.

"Being a young carer can affect children's performance in schools, their socialisation outside school, their future careers."

A Department of Education spokesman told the Irish Independent: "Due to the sensitivity of the information, the department does not hold information on carers at home."

And when asked the same question - for a record of young carers - the Department of Health did not provide up-to-date statistics.

The department instead pointed to Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures from 2016 which show 6,108 young carers under 17 and 3,800 young carers under 15.

But FCI believes the figure is much higher. They estimate there are 59,000 young carers under 18 providing care in the home.

Ms Mahon said: "There's a lack of information in relation to young carers - and to rely on a 2016 Census, is fairly abysmal."

FCI regularly lobbies for the recognition of young carers and it awards young people who care for loved ones each year at the Carer of the Year awards.

According to the 2016 Census, the majority, almost four out of five (78.9pc) of child carers provided up to two hours care a day.

Labour spokesman on education Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, said: "If the issue of young carers was of proper concern to the State, it would have every statistic possible to know how to deal with this.

"Part of the problem is there's cross-departmental responsibility to deal with this and no doubt one department is telling the other it's their responsibility.

"If this was an area of concern to the Government, it would have all the information at its fingertips."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Family carers work exceptionally hard to care for their loved ones and are fully deserving of respect and admiration from their communities and Government.

"Both the department and the HSE will continue to engage with family carer organisations to address the needs of carers."

Irish Independent

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