Carer Issues Highlighted in Consultation

The Equality Authority today host a consultation conference with carers and carer organisations. The consultation was organised to assist their work on carer issues. The Equality Authority have convened an advisory committee to prepare a report on implementing equality for carers.

Addressing the conference, Niall Crowley, CEO of the Equality Authority, highlighted change and diversity among carers. ” The recent census shows that women continue to do the majority of caring work. However, the number of men doing caring work has risen to 40% of all carers. Increasing numbers of carers are combining paid employment with caring roles. Carers include older people, young people, minority ethnic people, people with disabilities, lone parents and people in same sex couples. There is a diversity of caring situations, with 58% of carers providing care for 14 hours or less per week and 27% providing care for 43 hours or more per week. Policy and provision for carers must evolve to take account of this change and diversity”.

He outlined the range of issues being explored by the advisory committee. These include:

  • isolation, with many carers feeling less able to leave the house, going out in the evening less frequently and finding themselves too tired to engage in social activity;
  • income inadequacy, where social welfare carer payments are set at a basic subsistence level. This does not maintain employment income carers have lost. It does not reflect the economic value of caring work;
  • under-resourcing and underdevelopment of community care services to meet the needs of carers and to facilitate real choices for carers; and
  • a tension between labour market policies and social care service policies. Labour market policies respond to labour shortages by encouraging new groups such as carers into employment. Social care policies are largely structured in a manner that depends on the presence and contribution of the family carer.

Niall Crowley stated that ” there has been important development in policy and provision seeking to target carers. This does not mean change is any less urgent. It means however, that there are valuable foundations from which to build a new experience and situation for carers”. He also noted the important “focus of the social partners under Sustaining Progress in stimulating initiatives for an adequate care infrastructure for older people and people with disabilities”.

Key directions for change already identified by the advisory committee included the need for:

  • new investment to enhance income support for carers, further development of community care services and to develop a care infrastructure for older people and people with disabilities;
  • shared caring involving a new balance in the respective roles of state and family in caring. Currently the state plays a residual role with service provision often only provided in the absence of family care or when family care breaks down. The state needs to play a more proactive role to address current carer needs and the potential future decrease in the number of people taking on caring roles;
  • a new valuing of carers reflected in entitlements to a needs assessment and supports, as in Britain, when significant amounts of care are being provided;
  • work life balance for carers through workplace flexibilities that allow a reconciliation of paid employment and caring responsibilities and through a workplace culture that reflects an appreciation of the situation and needs of carers; and
  • new policies that reflect a coherent and comprehensive response to the needs of carers and that are integrated with a coherent and comprehensive policy response to the needs of those who are cared for including children, older people and people with disabilities.

The advisory committee is due to report later this year. It is composed of Government Departments, state agencies, the social partners, carer organisations and organisations representing those who are cared for. It is working on a definition of caring as the provision of help and support on an unpaid basis to family members, relatives and friends who need such care because of disability, old age or long term illness.


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