Urgent Audit of Respite Provision Required as Census Figures Highlight Rising Number of Family Carers

Posted on Thursday 01 June 2023


Wednesday 1st June 2023: Family Carers Ireland is calling for a comprehensive national audit to evaluate the availability of respite places throughout Ireland following new Census figures revealing a marked increase in the number of people identifying as family carers. The proposal aims to shine a light on both the existing needs of family carers and the many gaps in services, ultimately paving the way for an actionable plan to enhance support for this vital group.

Census 2022 figures published by the Central Statistics Office this week show that over 299,000 people identified as family carers, an increase of 53% when compared to Census 2016. Family Carers Ireland believes the true number of people with caring roles exceeds 500,000 as many do not identify as family carers.

The current state of respite services in Ireland is a matter of serious concern that demands immediate attention. Over the years, the number of family carers has increased while the availability and quality of respite care has steadily declined, leaving many in a precarious situation. This concerning trend places an overwhelming burden on family carers who provide care for their loved ones with limited or zero opportunities for a break.

Family Carers Ireland is calling for a minimum annual entitlement of 20 days of respite for full-time family carers in line with the statutory leave afforded to paid employees. It also wants the establishment of a respite register which it believes is crucial for effective resource allocation and service improvements while ensuring that family carers receive the support they require to maintain their wellbeing and avoid burnout.

Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy with Family Carers Ireland, said: “The Census reveals a significant growth in the proportion of the population providing care across various age groups. Particularly striking is the revelation that people aged between 50 and 59 emerge as the group most likely to be providing regular care.

“We also know that there are thousands more hidden family carers out there that don’t self-identify and simply see themselves as a partner, husband, wife, son, daughter, relative, good friend or neighbour. But without the support they provide to their loved ones, our health and social care systems would collapse.

“We have seen over the last few weeks how the lack of support services, limited access to respite care, extensive waiting lists for assessments and lack of future planning for residential care needs have become sources of immense frustration and distress for families. The absence of adequate support systems leaves many families feeling overwhelmed in their efforts to care for their loved ones. It is crucial that we address these systemic issues and prioritise the well-being of these families, ensuring timely access to vital services and supports.

“Family Carers Ireland believes that a national audit of respite places is now essential to gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation, including factors such as availability, accessibility, capacity and the overall quality of respite care. By conducting this audit, we can accurately assess the needs of family carers and identify the gaps that exist within the system. We can also ensure that there are appropriate residential places for adults requiring long-term care in the future.

“Family carers lived through Covid-19 with little help, support or homecare and no respite. It is now imperative that we acknowledge their significant contributions by providing the necessary support systems to ensure their physical and mental well-being. We urge the Government, policymakers and the relevant authorities to heed our call for a national audit on respite provision. By prioritising this initiative, we can work towards enhancing the support available to family carers and addressing the gaps in respite care services across the country.”