The number of unpaid carers in Ireland is about 350,000 i.e. 8% of all adults. Astudy published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on July 29, 2010 shows that almost half of these are spending more than 15 hours per week providing care for the main person they cared for, with one in five carers spending more than 57 hours per week on caring activities.
Just over a third of carers were caring for someone who required care due to old age and a further third were caring for someone with a physical disability only. One in ten carers were caring for someone with a mental disability only and 13% were caring for someone with both a physical and mental difficulty.
Two thirds of carers reported that their own health/lifestyle had been impacted by their caring responsibilities. 44% said it was confining while 43% said that there has had to be family adjustment. As the number of hours caring per week increase so does the proportion of carers reporting an effect on their health or lifestyle, with 47% of those that spent less than 15 hours per week, rising to 83% for those who spent 15 to 56 hours per week caring and almost all (92%) of those who spent 57 hours or more per week caring.
A major issue for policy development in this area relates to the value society places on unpaid work such as caring. In fact, society has tended to value only work for which a payment was received and ignored the value of work such as unpaid caring. This lack of appreciation can be seen clearly in the Government's failure to publish the long-promised Carers Strategy. Social Justice Ireland continues to urge Government to publish this strategy and to put policies in place that promote the valuing of unpaid work whether done in the home, in the community or in the wider society.
One of the chapters in Social Justice Ireland's annual Socio-Economic Review for 2010 addressed the issue of work and contains particular sections on 'The need to recognise all work' and on 'The Work of Careres
'The Full can be downloaded below