A discussion document relating to the recently-announced public consultation on a statutory home care scheme has been produced by relevant NGOs including Family Carers Ireland. The document outlines areas which these NGOs believe any statutory home care scheme must address. The document can be read here.
Due to large numbers of carers and groups being unable to travel tomorrow in light of strikes, Family Carers Ireland has had to cancel the scheduled National Carers Convention in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin on 25th March. Apologies for any inconvenience caused. The Convention will be rescheduled for later in the year.
On January 16th, Minister Helen McEntee announced that a consultation process is to be launched with a view to establishing a new statutory homecare scheme. She emphasised that for many the best care possible can be provided in their own homes, surrounded by the people and communities that they love.
Minister McEntee stated that the scheme must be cost-effective, sustainable and regulated. A consultation process, which is planned to begin in the coming months, will allow all those who have views on this topic to have their say, including care recipients, their families and health care workers. Family Carers Ireland has advocated for years for Government to work toward establishment of a statutory homecare scheme. We understand that the consultation will discuss a scheme that will include care-recipients of all ages. Family Carers Ireland welcomes the announcement of the consultation process and will ensure carers’ views are heard.
Family Carers Ireland members were invited by the Department of Health to make a presentation on February 8th to the British Irish Council on the experiences of carers of people with mental health difficulties. Joan Higgins and Gina Delaney with FCI Policy and Public Affairs Manager Clare Duffy gave a presentation entitled ‘Experiences of Carers of People with Mental Health Difficulties’, and subsequently engaged in a discussion on the challenges facing carers for people with mental difficulties and the responses and initiatives that have helped address these. The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Health Helen McEntee and HSE Head of Service User, Family Member and Carer Engagement Liam Hennessy.
The British Irish Council was established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement to promote the exchange of information and best practice across its member administrations (Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey). The BIC has identified the issue of caregiving as a priority area for consideration within their work programme 2015 – 2017.
Your Questions Answered
I’ve heard about changes to the PRSI Voluntary Contribution Scheme – what does this mean and will it affect me as a carer?
If you’ve had to give up work, or take extended periods away from work because of your caring responsibilities, your entitlement to a State Pension (Contributory) may be affected. There are a number of schemes in place to help protect a person’s entitlement to a State Pension, one of which is the Voluntary Contribution Scheme. Voluntary contributions are PRSI contributions you can opt to pay if you are between the age of 16 and 66 and are no longer covered by compulsory PRSI by way of insurable employment and/or self-employment. On February 6th Minister Varadkar announced positive changes to the Voluntary Contribution Scheme. One of these changes was increasing the period a person can apply to make voluntary contributions from 1 to 5 years. This means that carers who have had to give up work to provide care can, if they wish, apply to pay voluntary contributions for up to 5 years after their last paid contribution made through employment. If you are getting a social welfare payment such as Carer’s Allowance or signing for credits you may get credited contributions which will also keep your social insurance record up to date so there is no need to pay voluntary contributions.
How to apply: To become a voluntary contributor, you must complete application form VC1 and return it to the Voluntary Contributions Section, Department of Social Protection, Cork Road, Waterford. LoCall 1890 690 690
Family Carers Ireland has prepared a useful guide to help carers understand the pension system which can be downloaded here.
Family Carers Ireland was among fifteen organisations awarded funding from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment under their Digital Skills for Citizens Programme. The Department describes the purpose of the scheme: “The internet is a wonderful resource and it’s for everybody. However, almost one in six Irish adults has never used the internet. The Department’s ‘Getting Citizens Online Programme’ is, in line with the National Digital Strategy, focused on encouraging and empowering citizens to participate fully in Ireland’s digital economy and society. The Programme includes a grant scheme to fund digital skills training for citizens who have never used the internet with a view to removing a key barrier to digital adoption.”
The Programme aims to target what it calls ‘non-liners’, i.e. those who are not currently or have never been online, offering skills to give them confidence in using the internet. Courses will be offered by Family Carers Ireland over the coming year in locations around the country. We are currently recruiting qualified tutors and finalising locations and other details of the training, and will advertise locations soon.
If you know anyone who would benefit from these courses, do let them know about the scheme, or if you feel that you would yourself like to avail of it, don’t hesitate to contact us.
To register your own, a friend or a relative’s interest, you can contact the Digital Training Project Coordinator Sheena Twist in our Ennis office on 065 6866515/086 4121869, or you can drop in to your local centre to enquire about the courses.
If you would like to enquire on behalf of other ‘non-liners’, or if you have recently been introduced to online browsing and set up an email address, but feel you would benefit from further basic classes on navigating the internet, you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Family Carers Ireland is aiming to make 2017 the “Year of the Carer”.
In our first full year as an organisation since the merger between The Carers Association and Caring for Carers, we are hoping to increase awareness among the public of the issues dealt with by family carers and to ensure they are recognised, supported and empowered to care and to participate fully in Irish society.
We will be officially launching the Year of the Carer and our ‘Share the Care’ campaign on Monday, February 27th in Dublin. At the event to launch the campaign will be RTE radio and television personality and Irish Independent journalist Brendan O’Connor. Brendan’s daughter Mary has Down syndrome, and he has often spoken, and written openly and sensitively in his column, on the challenges many carers face in accessing supports and services for children with disabilities, particularly those with milder diagnoses.
Also present on the morning of the launch will be a number of family carers, including our Dublin Carer of the Year 2016 Liz Collins, mother of 13 year-old Claudia, who was born with a rare genetic skin disease called Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (more commonly known as “butterfly skin”), and LynnMarie Walsh, our Kildare Carer of the Year, with her daughter Jessica, who has Rett syndrome and for whom LynnMarie provides full-time care. Shirley Thornton, who cares for her elderly mother, will also be in attendance, and they will be joined by our Dublin Young Carer of the Year Úna Mc Nicholas.
Behind the ‘Share the Care’ campaign is the belief that caring should be a shared responsibility: between the person requiring care, the family carer and wider family, the state and other relevant agencies or actors such as service providers. The present reality is that family carers prop up the health system through their dedication, and are often expected to fill the gaps in resources in the system regardless of the cost to them – financially, socially, or in terms of their physical and mental health.
“Share the Care” also calls on family carers to self-identify as carers and seek support from their wider family, the state and society, as some carers can find it difficult to reach out and ask for help.
The Year of the Carer – “Share the Care” campaign will consist of a number of promoted, themed events and activities over the course of 2017.
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar yesterday announced changes to the PRSI Voluntary Contribution Scheme, extending the period people can decide to make voluntary contributions from 1 year to 5 years. This is an important change for carers who have to give up work to provide care but do not qualify for a Carer’s Allowance. In such cases, the carer can make Voluntary PRSI contributions each year while protecting their Contributory State Pension entitlement. FCI have discussed the need for such an extension with the Department, so welcome this change. Details of the changes are contained in a press release from the Department.
You can also now read the briefing paper Carers and the State Pension, prepared last year by FCI Head of Social Policy Clare Duffy with the cooperation of officials in the DSP, which explains carer’s State Pension entitlements.
Friday 27th January: Family Carers Ireland has today welcomed Deputy O’ Dea’s Nursing Home Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill, which was discussed in the Dáil last night. The Bill proposes that, where an applicant is approved for the Fair Deal scheme, the alternative of home care services should be made available, where such home care services are determined to be less costly to the state than the proposed long-term residential care. While the proposed amendment met with broad cross-party support, it has been deferred for 6 months in light of Minister McEntee’s recent announcement of a consultation process on a statutory entitlement to home care. The motion was approved last night to have the Bill read in the House again in six months or, if the Dáil will then be in recess, at a session before its break.
Family Carers Ireland spokesperson Catherine Cox stated: “We warmly welcome Minister McEntee’s launch of a consultation process on the establishment of a new statutory home care scheme. We have lobbied for many years for such a scheme, and look forward to engagement on it. We do, however, acknowledge that this process will take significant time in order to ensure that what results is a fit-for-purpose scheme. In the interim we are calling for additional funding to be directed towards home care provision as a matter of urgency, in order to ensure that families’ access to home care supports do not remain unreliable and inequitable, as is the case at the moment.
“We look forward to working with the Minister, her department and the opposition parties over the coming months on developing a new community-based model of care that gives a statutory, demand-led entitlement to home care services for people of all ages.”
Italy has recently passed its “Dopo Di Noi” (“After Us”) legislation, the aim of which is to secure the future of adults with intellectual or other disabilities after their parents or other carers pass on. The bill addresses an anxiety shared and frequently highlighted by parents who care for adult children in Ireland. The bill seeks to safeguard the financial future of adults whose carers have died and to ensure that they have appropriate advocacy. The bill is recent, and the full legislation extremely detailed, but it has been described by former Eurocarers Board Member Licia Boccaletti of Anziani e non Solo as ‘a very important legislative step’. Family Carers Ireland has been liaising with Italian colleagues through the Eurocarers Research Working Group as to the bill’s content and aims, and is preparing a translation of a useful information sheet about its provisions.