The work of Ireland’s carers receives minimal recognition despite the essential role their work plays in society. These results from the 2022 Census offer an insight into the scale of these commitments, which save the state large costs that it would otherwise have to bear. The dominant caring role played by women is also highlighted.
Social Justice Ireland welcomed the long overdue publication of a National Carers Strategy in July 2012. The document included a ‘roadmap for implementation’ involving a suite of actions and associated timelines, and identifies the Government Department responsible for their implementation. However, these actions were confined to those that could be achieved on a cost neutral basis. Various progress reports of the strategy have been published to date and point towards some progress on the actions set out. However, these are, as a group, limited given the unwillingness of Government to allocate sufficient resources to supporting those in this sector. Social Justice Ireland believes that further policy reforms should be introduced to reduce the financial and emotional pressures on carers. In particular, these should focus on addressing the poverty experienced by many carers and their families alongside increasing the provision of respite care for carers and for those for whom they care. In this context, the 24 hour responsibilities of carers contrast with the improvements over recent years in employment legislation setting limits on working-hours of people in paid employment.
In 2022, twice as many young carers provided 43 or more hours of unpaid care someone with a chronic condition or an infirmity due to old age at least once a week (12 per cent) compared with 2016 (6 per cent). A report from March 2023 considered the experience of the ‘hidden’ population of young carers (defined as children under the age of 18 who provide regular and ongoing care and emotional support to a family member) and found that 80 per cent were at clinical risk of depression, 86 per cent feel stressed, 56 per cent feel like they cannot cope, 32 per cent struggled to balance school with caring, and 27 per cent did not feel that they had adequate time to spend on schoolwork. A lack of primary care support and supports for carers will have long-term effects on the child’s education, work prospects and social abilities.
Government must give greater recognition to the work carried out by carers in Ireland and introduce policy reforms to reduce the financial and emotional pressures on carers. In particular, these should focus on addressing the poverty experienced by many carers and their families, as well as on increasing the provision of respite opportunities to carers and to those for whom they care and invest in supports for young carers so they can thrive academically and socially.
- To acknowledge and support the work of carers in Ireland, at the very minimum in Budget 2023 Government must:
- Expand the Free Travel scheme to include people in receipt of Domiciliary Care Allowance (cost of €6.1m).
- Increase the annual Carer's Support Grant to €2,000 (at a cost of €20.9m).
- Implement an independent review of Carer’s Allowance.
- Increase the Domiciliary Care Allowance to €355 per month.
- Pilot a Universal Basic Services and a Universal Basic Income Scheme for Carers at a cost of €10m in line with the Programme for Government Commitment to a Carers Guarantee.