‘Carers at breaking point need action not platitudes’- Durkan

SDLP social justice spokesperson Mark H Durkan has called for both financial and mental health support for unpaid carers.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 8:16 am

The Foyle MLA’s call follows from a report published by Carers UK, entitled ‘Breaks or Breakdown’ which highlights the increased challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report coincided with the beginning of ‘Carers Week,’ an annual awareness campaign to recognise the contribution made by unpaid carers across the UK.

Mr. Durkan said: “The figures within this report are shocking but somewhat expected- with 79% of carers in Northern Ireland not receiving a break from their caring duties in over 15 months, it will be of no surprise that many feel pushed to the brink of collapse.

Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan.
Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan.

“Covid-19, the imposition of lockdown and the aftermath has set society as we know it into turmoil. For carers that challenge has been increased ten-fold- with many experiencing an increase in their responsibilities, putting their own physical and mental health on the line in the process. 72% of carers say their mental health has deteriorated as a result of not having a break from caring and 78% have reported high levels of fatigue, stress and exhaustion. Not to provide a mechanism of practical support, is unforgivable.”

The Foyle MLA was also keen to point out that the work carers do, lessens the financial impact on public spending. He said: “Carers save the public purse an immeasurable amount of money, in the realm of £4.8 billion over the course of the pandemic thus far. It beggars belief that they are often taken for granted by the system here- the reality remains that our health service could not cope without their vital contribution.

“Myself, and indeed others, have called for additional payments for unpaid carers over the past year in recognition of their significant contribution within our communities, yet the Finance Minister has failed to allocate any funding for these payments under the current Budget 2021/22.”

According to the ‘Breaks or Breakdown’ report mentioned above; In Scotland, carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance are paid an additional payment twice per year known as a Carer’s Allowance Supplement. In addition, the report says that Scotland have introduced a one- off Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement to those eligible for Carer’s Allowance Supplement.

“Clearly there is work yet to be done,” Mr. Durkan continued. “Our carers deserve better. Implementing a proper support model will be crucial now and in the future.”