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Carers in Ireland

'Carers and Social Supports' provides data and insights on Carers in Ireland (who they are, how many hours of caring they provide, etc.) and the extent to which people in Ireland can rely on informal social supports (assistance from neighbours for example). The publication also outlines, for those aged 65 years and older, the extent to which they experience difficulties with certain personal care and household activities.

Main Findings:

  • Carers are more likely to report some form of depression than non-carers
  • Close to one in eight persons aged 15 years and over provide caring
  • More females (14%) than males (11%) are carers
  • Almost one in five (19%) carers report some form of depression compared to 13% of non-carers
  • Around 80% of those aged 15 years and over report they have three or more persons they can rely on in the event of a serious problem
  • Three-quarters find it easy or very easy to get practical help from neighbours
  • Around 40% of those aged 65 years and over report some degree of difficulty with doing heavy housework

Carers

Over 1-in-8 persons aged 15 years and over provide caring, with more of the age group 45-54 years providing care than any other age group. The vast majority of caring is provided to another family member, with females providing more care than men.   At State level, 13% of persons aged 15 years and over provide care (excluding professional activities) to another person at least once a week by virtue of that other person’s suffering from some age problem, chronic health condition or infirmity. The age group 45-54 years is the group which provides the most care, at a fifth (20%) of this age group, with the age group 25-34 years providing the least care (5%). For the age group 75 years and over, 9% of this group provide care to another person at least once a week.  Persons in the Very Disadvantaged group report that 15% of them provide care to another person at least once a week.

At State level, of those who provide care, 31% of persons aged 15 years and over provide 20 or more hours of caring a week, with 37% of females providing this level of caring compared to 23% of men. Conversely, for men who provide care, 61% of them provide less than 10 hours a week, compared to 44% of females.

Over half (51%) of persons aged 75 years and over who provide care, provide 20 or more hours of it a week, with younger age groups more likely to be providing fewer hours. For example, for the age group 45-54 years who provide care, half of them (50%) provide it for less than 10 hours, while a third (33%) provide 20 or more hours of care to another person at least once a week by virtue of that other person’s suffering from an age problem, chronic health condition or infirmity.

When looking at the data by relative affluence, more affluent persons who provide care are more likely to be providing less than 10 hours a week when compared to more disadvantaged persons. For example, 60% of Very Affluent persons who provide care provide less than 10 hours a week, as opposed to 39% of Very Disadvantaged persons who provide care. Conversely, 36%, of Very Disadvantaged persons who provide care provide 20 or more hours a week, whereas 23% of Very Affluent persons who provide care provide this level of caring hours.

Health Status of Carers

In general, carers report a lower level of health status than non-carers and carers report a higher level of mental health issues than non-carers, with more of them suffering from some form of depression than non-carers.  In terms of self-perceived health status, 82% of carers compared to 85% of non-carers report a Good or very good level of health status, with 15% of carers reporting their health status as Fair compared to 11% of non-carers.  

As regards the prevalence of a long-standing condition, 30% of carers report having such a condition, compared to 25% of non-carers, and 21% of carers report some level of limitation as regards everyday activities due to a health problem compared to 18% of non-carers.   For mental health, 19% of carers report some form of depression (with mild depression accounting for 13 percentage points of this), compared to 13% of non-carers (with mild depression accounting for 8% of this).

Personal Care and Activity Difficulties for people over 65

The report found that around 12% of persons aged 65 years and over report difficulties with personal care activities, with just over 40% reporting difficulties with household activities. Getting in and out of bed or a chair (personal care) and doing heavy housework (household activity) are the activities older people have the most difficulty with. Persons aged 75 years and over report more difficulties than persons aged 65-74 years and females report more difficulties than males.

Social Supports

The data shows that close to 80% of those who provide care report being able to count on 3 or more persons in the event of a serious problem, with non-Irish nationals reporting being able to count on fewer people than Irish nationals. People also report high levels for the concern and interest others show in what they are doing.

However, Unemployed persons, when compared to those In employment, report lower levels for the concern and interest they think others show in what they are doing, and report a lower number of persons they are able to count on in the event of a serious problem. Interestingly, when compared to Disadvantaged persons, more affluent persons report a wider network of persons to count on in the event of a serious problem, yet more disadvantaged persons report it as being easier to get practical help from a neighbour than those who are more affluent.

Policy Reforms

Social Justice Ireland welcomes the insight that the latest CSO publication gives into the lives of those providing care in Ireland.  In 2012 we welcomed the long overdue publication of a National Carers Strategy. 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.  It is absoutely vital that sufficient resources and supports are provided to support carers and their families.  

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.