Northern Ireland news

Fears support for carers will not return after Covid pandemic

Carers 'feel they have been abandoned and are crying out for more practical support'

ONE in three people caring for family members or friends feel "unable to manage" amid fears support will not return after the pandemic.

Research released for Carers Week found that 79 per cent of carers in Northern Ireland have not had any breaks from their role during the pandemic.

Those who managed to get a `break' either used it to complete practical tasks or house work (29 per cent) or attend their own medical appointments (30 per cent).

Four in five carers said they are exhausted as a result of caring during the pandemic with 33 per cent now feeling unable to manage their unpaid caring role.

The six charities supporting Carers Week - Carers NI, Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness - are calling on the government to ensure unpaid carers get the breaks they need.

They want the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency to address infection prevention and control guidelines for day centres and short break providers and give "a timeline for the full return of services" or "appropriate and meaningful alternatives and practical support".

Fewer than one in 10 "exhausted" unpaid carers in the north are confident pre-lockdown support will return following the Covid-19 pandemic, despite an "extraordinarily challenging year" which has seen them providing many more hours of care alone.

"Without the right support, the stress of the last year could lead to far more carers breaking down," Clare-Anne Magee of Carers NI said.

"Carers feel they have been abandoned and are crying out for more practical support."

She said the government needs to ensure "those providing endless hours of care each week get access to the meaningful breaks they need and deserve".

"Unpaid carers need hope and support in the future and, going forward, they must be at the heart of the government's plans for social care reform."

Seventy-two carers in the north reported poor mental health, while 67 per cent said their physical health had deteriorated.

`Breaks' range from 30 minutes or an afternoon to a week and before the pandemic were provided by accessing care services such as replacement care, sitting services, a day service or through support from family and friends helping with either respite or essential care.

Carers Week runs from June 7-13.

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