Friday, February 26, 2010

Why does the state not value the work of carers?

Today I attended a forum organised by the Carers Association at Waterford Institute of Technology. I took part in a panel discussion on a broad range of issues facing carers. It is truly amazing the work that carers do. Caring for someone involves long hours, patience, love, understanding and dare I say a little frustration. It also brings rewards and as one carer put it, enjoy it as you will miss it one day.

This was the sixth event I attended on the issue of caring. They are always thought-provoking as you hear of the difficulties, challenges and obstacles faced by carers. You also hear of the love for those they care for and I am always lifted by their determination to have their voices heard. I genuinely believe that most politicians do not understand the issues facing carers. Carers do a job yet do they not get adequately paid. They recieve a small payment which is means tested and below the minimum wage. They save the state a fortune yet their work is not recognised. They receive little training or counselling despite in most cases becoming carers overnight. Respite care can be difficult to organise with the respite grant not going far enough.

Despite promises a National Carer’s Strategy has not been published. This is necessary as we need to deal holistically with the needs of carers. Very often the focus is on income support but this is only part of the picture. We need to deal with the heath, education and training need of carers. A piece meal approach is simply not good enough.

I attended a lot of pre-election events organised by carers. Some politicians turn up, some do not. For most they listen, they promise and yet they fail to deliver. Surely if they truly valued the work of carers they would deliver. Carers are remarkable people. The local Carers Association provides a wonderful service. Its co-ordinator Nuncy Murphy has been nominated as Waterford Person of the Year. This nomination is a sincere acknowledgement of the work that all carers do. Let’s hope that one day they get the state support that they need and deserve.

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