The calls follow a report published by Carers UK, ‘Breaks or Breakdown’ this Carers’ Week Monday 7th- Sunday 13th June, which highlights the increased challenges posed by the COVID pandemic.
Said the Foyle MLA: “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.
“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.
“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.
“They are an invaluable resource within our communities and that must be reflected in support services and resources.
“Yes, it is important carers feel visible and valued but much more than that they need action rather than empty promises.
“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.
“Clearly there is work yet to be done.
“Our carers deserve better, implementing a proper support model will be crucial now and in the future.”