Westmeath carers have received what the Carers Association is calling a 'slap in the face', with the Government announcement that the National Carers Strategy is not to be published.
The 2,862 family carers across Westmeath are among over 161,000 carers nationwide who have been lobbying for the completion of the strategy for over five years in an attempt to ensure vital supports for carers are implemented.
However Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, met with the Carers Association on Tuesday this week to inform them that the strategy would not be going ahead as the Government could not commit to any of its plans at present.
Centre manager of the Westmeath Carers Association, Caroline Poole, said the move was indicative of the Government’s lack of appreciation of family carers and their invaluable work.
"We are devastated and appalled that Government has reneged on its promise to develop and publish a National Carers Strategy as committed to under the Social Partnership Agreement Towards 2016.
“The Government has been more than happy to accept over 66,262 hours of work per week provided by Westmeath family carers, yet is not even willing to publish a strategy that, at the very least, recognises and values carers for their contribution to the State,” she said.
Chairman of Westmeath County Council, Cllr Joe Whelan, said he could not understand the rationale behind the decision not to publish the strategy.
“I am surprised it is not even being published as there are a number of strategies being published which haven’t the resources to back them up. This strategy would acknowledge the contribution made by carers in saving the State a significant amount of money,” he said.
Ms Poole added that the decision means that family carers may never get a strategy which is vital for the long term continuation of care.
“The announcement is a disgrace and a real blow for Westmeath family carers,” she said.
The Carers Association put forward proposals to Government this week that departments, the HSE, and carers’ organisations come together to look at ways of improving the lives of carers without additional costs to the State.
"We have asked the Government to consider our proposals, but should they decide to ignore these options, the Government will be making a clear statement that they are not going to give the proper recognition to the contribution of Westmeath family carers to the economy, amounting to over €44 million per year,” said Ms Poole.