Earlier in December Government announced that all carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance would receive a free GP Visit Card and further announcing a funding injection of €10m toward respite care. These are welcome signals that carers issues are becoming a focus of Government action. These measures come in the wake of the huge public response to the RTE Prime Time Special ‘Carers in Crisis’, which highlighted the plight of 5 family carers, representing thousands more in similar situations across the country. The theme of ‘Carers in Crisis’ has been prominent in the media over the past twelve months, beginning with Rosita Boland’s Irish Times article and the subsequent ‘Carers in Crisis’ series in the same paper. Family Carers Ireland was instrumental in highlighting these issues, pursuing them through political and media channels and facilitating access to carers for print and broadcast media.
Family Carers Ireland welcomes the announcement of GP visit cards to all in receipt of Carer’s Allowance. We emphasise however that only 1 in 4 carers actually receives Carer’s Allowance, mainly due to the means test; we would therefore ask that this measure be extended to all full-time carers. We are accordingly calling for all carers in receipt of the Carer’s Support Grant to receive this card, which would bring over 25,000 more into the net (a measure for which FCI called in its most recent and many previous pre-budget submissions). This is certainly a step in the right direction; but we must also question why it will take up to 6 months to implement, and note the issue of cost of medication and prescriptions that will remain.
In response to the announcement of €10m extra for respite care, again, this is a step in the right direction, but will not be sufficient to tackle the crisis that exists for carers in gaining access to regular respite breaks and emergency respite provision. Further, as 12 residential centres have been mentioned, there will still be a postcode lottery in terms of accessing these centres, depending on which county you live in.
Family Carers save the state €10 billion each year – both of these steps announced yesterday will cost approximately €21 million, so while both are welcome and deserve recognition, it is important that it is also recognised that there is a lot more to be done!