There are an estimated 180,000 carers in Ireland today.
The government’s latest budget has seen a 19% cut to the respite care grant. We went to the Dáil today to speak to those demonstrating against these cuts; carers, their loved ones, a politician and a carers’ representative.
Pat kelly is a former full-time carer of 25yrs from Cork City
I was a full time carer for 25 years. I had major back surgery in 1985 and developed a lung condition and from that time I took care of my mother and then my father. My father broke his hip and then had a stroke and required 24hr care. I had to fight for everything. Because I was on disability myself I couldn’t get the carers’ allowance. In 2006 they introduced a half-rate carers’ allowance (€110) for people receiving other social welfare benefits but they didn’t implement it until september 2007. I benefited from that then until dad died in January 2009.
Without the respite care I couldn’t have continued. It was a drain, physically, emotionally and mentally. My last holiday was Sept 1983. I had to arrange respite two months in advance if I wanted to attend a meeting. A lot of carers are like myself, older members of society. We’ve paid our debt to society, we’ve worked all our lives but we’re a vulnerable group. You get socially isolated, I’m a single man. You lose your friends. They gradually stop calling, they know you can’t go for a pint of a Saturday because you’re looking after your father. Without the Carers Association both locally and nationally I would be dead. For the last 6 months of my father’s life I stockpiled sleeping tablets with the intention that if the pressure got too much I’d take them with a glass of brandy and finish it.
I was despondent but the Carers Association were there for me. I got empathy. Not sympathy, which is the last thing the carer wants. we don’t want people saying ‘You’re doing a great job’, politicians especially, bugger that. We should be appreciated but nobody gives a continental damn for carers, but carers. Caring can come one of two ways, it can be gradual or sudden. In my mother’s case it was gradual but in my father’s it was sudden. I have no medical training, I’m not medically qualified but I had to do it. The association was there for me but nobody else gave a damn.
When I see politicians here it upsets me. I’m very, very angry with Labour. Labour are supposed to be there for the downtrodden, the working class and the poor. Where are they? Where is Eamonn Gilmore? Years ago we had a satirical programme called Hall’s Pictorial Weekly, Labour was in coalition at the time, and the labour party leader Brendan Corish was portrayed at the cabinet table as a silent skeleton. That’s what we have now. Labour should hang their heads in shame, they should be there for us but instead they’re protecting the bloody bankers. I cry with frustration at the way they’re treating the people that are saving the state billions. If we decided in the morning that we would put the people we care for in to the HSE, the system would collapse. But the politicians know we’re not going to abandon our loved ones, they have us by the short and curlies.
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan – Independent TD
What the economic gurus in the Dáil will tell you is it’s not about sentiment, it’s about getting the figures to add up. Well that’s fine but the figures don’t add up. I was talking to a woman here who tells me that in the morning if she couldn’t handle what she was doing any more, and they have just increased that chance, it would cost the state €300,000 per year to look after her children. That will cost the state a fortune and those children wouldn’t be getting the same level of care because they wouldn’t be with their mother anymore.
So if this was about economics then they need to think about it again. It’s obviously about more than economics but when you’re appealing to this government it seems that’s all they care about. It doesn’t add up economically so change the decision.
As far as I can see the only thing that really affects the people in Dail Eireann is a massive crowd outside Dail Eireann. I think the only way that these politicians will vote against this, people like Colm Keaveney (Labour chairperson) who said he’s not happy with this budget, is if there are 100,000 or 200,000 people outside the dail next Wednesday when we vote on this budget. Some people might say that that might be unrealistic but if that’s unrealistic then it is unrealistic to take care of the vulnerable. But if you get 100,000 people out here next Wednesday they will not vote for that budget. So people have a choice they either stand up or give up, and here is their chance.
Catherine Cox communications manager for the Carers Association
People can’t take it anymore. We’ve had people ringing us since the budget on our carer line. They are really desperate. We did a survey recently about our carers’ mental health and welbeing, we found over 50% of carers have been diagnosed with an illness; many of them with stress, depression, anxiety and physical problems from lifting their cared-for person, from chair to bath etc. There are massive pressures on carers and the financial one is just another one.
Unless caring comes to your door you may not fully understand it. But it is an issue that comes to all of us. We almost all at some stage give or receive care. Every year we lobby politicians and there seems to be an empathy there but then comes the budget and we get hit with something like this. Empathy’s not enough, they need to put their money where their mouth is. €20m is all they’ll save from this, it’s unfair, turn it back.
Carolyn Akintola – Dublin ‘Carer of the Year’
Carers are a resource to be cherised not a burden to be put upon. We’re not costing the state anything, we’re not even ‘cost neutral’, we’re saving the state €4.5bn! Politicians get paid for going to and from work, if you chose to work well away from your home that’s your problem, carers don’t have that choice.
For information & support contact the Carers Association on their confidential helpline 1800 24 07 24