Family Carers Ireland today hosted its 10th annual Carers of the Year Awards on Wednesday 16th November. The awards celebrate the dedication and commitment of the 200,000 family carers across Ireland, who are the backbone of the country’s health system and represent an often forgotten workforce.
Twenty-five regional family carers were presented with special awards and Dorothy Meaney from Dooradoyle, Limerick was revealed as the overall winner and she was declared Ireland’s Carer of the Year 2016. For the first time four regional Young Carers of the Year were chosen: Craig McSweeney (16) was awarded Munster Young Carer of the Year, Sean Collins (13) the Ulster/Connaught Young Carer of the Year, Seunfunmi Solanke (17) Leinster Young Carer of the Year and Úna Mc Nicholas (17) Dublin Young Carer of the Year. They were each presented with their awards by broadcasters and patrons of Family Carers Ireland, Mary Kennedy and Marty Whelan.
Dorothy Meaney, Ireland’s Carer of the Year, provides full time care to her daughter Zondra (31) who has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which affects all the systems of the body. Zondra’s illness has progressed a lot in the past three years, and Dorothy gave up work to look after her daughter and Zondra’s 9-year-old son (Dorothy’s grandson). One of the most difficult things about Zondra’s disorder is the fact there are no specialists in Ireland who can treat her, and so Dorothy and Zondra travel to the UK every 12 weeks for treatment. Dorothy was also caring for her own mother who sadly passed away and is being buried today, therefore Dorothy was unable to attend the awards ceremony. Family friend Laura Fitzgerald collected Dorothy’s award on her behalf.
Family Carers Ireland received a high volume of entries for the awards in 2016, with the figures rising year on year. As with the trend in other years, six out of the twenty-five regional award recipients are male, and this correlates with the census breakdown of carers, showing approximately 25% male and 75% female. Almost one third of award recipients in 2016 are 65 years or older and half of the group have been caring for more than 10 years with some providing care for more than 40 years.
In 2015, Family Carers Ireland saw a significant increase in the volume of entries for Young Carer of the Year and therefore decided to honour four regional Young Carers of the Year in 2016.