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Conway-Walsh raises plight of Carers in Seanad

15 July, 2016 - by Rose Conway-Walsh

Speaking in the Seanad this week on the issue of carers, Mayo Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has called for increased funding for carers to mirror the rise in population of people over 65.

Senator Conway- Walsh said: 
“The plight of carers must be prioritized in this year’s budget.  Money must be ring fenced for the full implementation of phase two of the National Carers’ Strategy. We are continuously told that the economy is in recovery so all I am asking is that the Government fulfil their pre-election promises to carers.  I know carers in my constituency who are mentally, physically and financially exhausted because of the care they are providing. It comes as no surprise that carers are a net contributor to the economy and, indeed, to the Health Service Executive budget. However, the figures that indicate that carers contribute €4 billion to the economy and a third of the HSE budget are staggering, particularly given the difficulties they continue to face in providing such a vital service.
“I was pleased to be able to attend the launch of Carers’ Ireland pre-budget submission in Dublin last week.  It was particularly interesting for me because since 2008 I have been fighting for the plight of carers and against the cutting of home help hours on the ground here in Mayo.  I fully support the call for an increase in Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit in line with the restoration of public sector pay and the inclusion of travel, medical and other care-related expenses as deductible costs when means testing Carer’s Allowance.”
“It is now time to create a statutory entitlement to home care services to balance the statutory entitlement to residential care services established under Fair Deal legislation.  This is the only way to ensure that those who wish to stay in their own homes will get the supports and services they need without forcing family carers into poverty.  The HSE spent €11 million less on home help and home care packages in 2015 compared to 2008 despite a 25% increase the population over 65.  In the same period spending on residential care increased by 68 million.  Carers provide over 6 million hours of unpaid care each week.”
“Carers and those being cared for at home face particular challenges here in Mayo.  The cost and difficulties faced by those who need to travel to hospital appointments and the lack of respite beds present increased hardship.  Between 31 August 2009 and 31 August 2010, Fianna Fáil cut 32,000 hours of home help from very vulnerable people in Mayo. Fine Gael when in government went on to cut 9,000 hours from people in Mayo. In addition it told elderly people that they were not even worth one hour, that it had to be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 45 minutes.  This budget cannot pass without these cuts being reversed and proper supports being put in place.”
“Finally, I also raised the issue of those on Carers Benefit being cut off after the two year period regardless of the whether the person they were caring for needed that care to continue.  I am dealing with cases where workers take leave of absence to care for their elderly relatives.  Their decision is saving the state thousands of euro each week.  Yet they are being forced to stop that care when the period for Carers Benefit runs out.  They could get Carers Benefit for another person but it cannot continue for the same person.  I have requested that this anomaly be addressed immediately.”

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