Carers Must Not Be Overlooked

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey vowed today that carers will not be overlooked and their importance to society will be reflected in his priorities.

Speaking after an Assembly debate on carers, he said that he would continue to review services which were in place to ensure that people had access to timely and responsive help and support.

He said: “I share the view of Assembly members that not enough is currently being done to ensure that carers are aware of their statutory rights. In Northern Ireland there are currently around 185,000 carers, many looking after a frail, ill or disabled child or elderly relative without payment and little respite.

“All carers are individuals with their own needs, caring for people with a huge range of requirements and abilities in what can be very complex and emotionally charged relationships. This not a one solution fits all – carers deserve real choices based on their individual circumstances.

“I want to ensure that the contribution of carers is fully recognised. They are the unsung heroes and without their input the vulnerable people in our society who want to live independent lives will suffer.”

Turning to what is being done for carers, the Minister said a strategy was published in 2006 which had already produced many positive developments.

“As part of the strategy, recurrent funding of £400,000 was allocated and is being used by health and social care bodies to develop innovative and responsive support services. Carers not only need long-term respite care but should have the opportunity to go the shops on a Saturday or take part in a hobby or activity.”

Further work to support carers includes new legislation in March 2003 which gave carers for the first time a statutory right to an assessment of their own needs.

The Minister said: “I believe we can still do more to raise the profile of carers’ assessments and in doing so provide a route for carers to access the support they need. My Department has carried out an inspection of social care support services for carers of older people.

“The findings of this report will be published shortly but is likely to make further recommendations about the consistency of carers’ assessments and services across Northern Ireland.”