Carers across Westmeath are outraged that Government might consider targeting carers allowances for budgetary cuts. Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, has suggested that the cost cutting board set up by the Taoiseach to reduce departmental spending may focus on cutting recently introduced increases such as the half-rate Carers Allowance introduced two years ago. The Carers Association in Westmeath has been inundated with calls from carers across the county, angry and very worried over Minister Hanafin’s comments.
Introducing the half-rate carers allowance two years ago, Minister Cullen stated that, “The Government is committed to supporting carers and to facilitating older people and people with disabilities to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. Carers play a very crucial, and much valued role in our society.” He continued that, “A working group on long-term care, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, was established to identify policy options for a financially sustainable system of long term care. The role and needs of family carers were recognised by the group and this influenced the decision to introduce half payment carers allowance.”
The Carers Association finds it inconceivable that two years later, another group, also chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, would consider reversing this decision.
“Cutting essential allowances for family carers would be an absolute disgrace. Reducing the Carers Allowance, removing the half-rate carers allowance or reducing income disregards for family carers, many of whom are already living on the poverty line, and will seriously endanger the continuation of care in the home,” says Enda Egan, CEO of The Carers Association. “Carers, already a very vulnerable group providing front line services in the community, should not be victims of Government’s efforts to cut spending. Allowance cuts could result in many carers being forced to pass the care of family and loved ones to the state, as they will no longer be able to afford medical supplies and increasing food, heating and electricity costs, thus significantly increasing the costs of care on the State.”
Westmeath’s 2,862 family carers contribute over 66,262 hours every week to Ireland’s social economy, saving the State over €44 million each year.
“Ireland’s family carers contribute over three million hours of care per week on minimal allowances and supports. It is shocking that Government might consider penalising carers as part of their cut-backs. Family carers receiving the carers allowance of €220 per week must be providing full care in the home in order to receive payment, which is only €16 per week above Job Seekers Allowance. Yet carers work full-time and are on call 24 hours, seven days a week as well as having to deal with the hidden costs of caring,” says Mr Egan.
Based on commitments by Government, it was anticipated that the National Carers Strategy, already over 12 months behind schedule, would be published by Christmas. Carers are dependant on this strategy to formally recognise their contribution as well as address financial and support services issues.
“If the Government is sincere about saving costs, they will not let the current economic climate affect essential supports for Ireland’s family carers, who save the State over €2.5 billion every year through provision of care in the home. Ireland’s family carers are an invaluable resource and we cannot and will not accept any proposed cutbacks,” concluded Mr Egan.
The Carers Association is the national voluntary organisation of family carers in the home, providing support services, respite, training and information to carers throughout Ireland. The Carers Association Mullingar can be contacted on (044 ) 47922 or log on to www.carersireland.com