Mary Durkan, the SDLP’s Foyleside Councillor, is calling for a review of the needs of unpaid carers to inform wider strategic planning for a reformed and sustainable health and social care system that will work for everyone.
Miss Durkan’s calls follow the passing of a motion with unanimous support at last week’s meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council calling for recognition and better support for informal carers, coinciding with Carers Rights Day.
Miss Durkan said: “Figures from the latest research by Carers NI, released on Carers Rights Days, show that the number of unpaid carers continues to rise throughout the pandemic.
“Of course many carers do not even identify themselves as such. It is estimated that carers have saved the state more than £19 million a day.
“According to this latest research, 85% of carers here are providing more care now than they were prior to the pandemic.
“Many of those receiving care have developed more complex needs.
“The withdrawal of respite and routine support services, including home visits and day-care services, brought difficult decisions for carers and families.
“Striking a balance between a day-job and caring responsibilities is never easy. During the pandemic, many workers faced the dilemma of choosing between financial security and the health and safety of a vulnerable person in their care.
“Workers were living in fear of bringing the virus home due to lack of safety measures and social distance in their workplace.
“Each carer’s individual story is unique.
“Many unpaid carers are elderly with their own health issues.
“Many young carers are balancing caring for a parent of sibling with school or studies.
“Some parents have more than one child with complex medial needs. Students in full-time education are not eligible to apply for carers’ allowance.
““Sandwich carers” are balancing raising a family with looking after elderly or vulnerable parents.
“The majority of unpaid carers have also experienced increased financial hardship during the pandemic in light of additional costs for readjustments, equipment and higher utility and heating bills at home.”
Miss Durkan added, “We applaud, with gratitude, the invaluable work of unpaid carers.
“We must also pay tribute to Carers NI and other organisations working to provide care for carers.
“I look forward to Council working with the Trust and relevant organisations to share information and guidance on support services for unpaid carers across Derry and Strabane.”