Amid cutbacks, who cares for carers?

Damien Hickey, 33, has saidhe values the job that he does, but does not think it is valued by anyone else. Picture: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Marie Hickey would be lost without her grandson, Damien, 33, who has cared for her over the past nine years.

Damien, from Castletroy, Co Limerick, loves to look after the woman he calls Mum, but says nonetheless it is a full-time job. Following a series of strokes, Marie, 76, lost her speech. Her eyesight is also failing and she has other health problems.

“Washing, cleaning, eating, she needs everything provided to her within the house,” says Damien. “The only two things that I do not do for her are eat her food and sleep for her.

“I’ve been married for three years, we have not had a honeymoon yet, and we have only ever had two nights away.”

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He is not alone among the tens of thousands of carers across the country who form a poorly-resourced and unsung social service.

The Government’s national carers strategy was supposed to fix all that, but the results, so far, have been under-whelming, to say the least.

The strategy contains 42 action points and was published in 2012. Since then, just one objective has been fully achieved, with eight actions regressing.

The halving of funding for housing grant schemes, poor discharge planning from hospital to home care, and a cut to the respite grant are among the areas which have seen setbacks.

According to the Carers’ Association, which represents 187,000 carers, the Government has made poor progress in implementing the strategy and some areas are actually getting worse.

It has called for funding to be restored and wants the Government to implement a new programme for carers, with proper funding.

The association made the call after releasing details yesterday of how it had scored the strategy.

It found only one objective had been achieved since it was published in 2012. “One objective was achieved; four show good progress; 19 show initial progress; 10 show no progress; and, most disappointingly, eight have actually regressed,” according to the association’s report.

Spokeswoman Catherine Cox has said funding cuts, of almost 20%, are the hardest for their members who are on call 24-7. “Respite provision is very poor across the country, so carers often cannot get respite for breaks, which leaves them struggling,” she said.

The association estimates carers save the State €4bn a year, caring for people who would otherwise have to be looked after by the HSE.

“It would be detrimental to the finances of the country if the HSE had to take over all the tasks that I do,” said Damien Hickey.

“Although I value the job I do, I do not think that it is valued by anyone else.”

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