Cork carer, who hasn't had a break since 2019, stresses need for support for carers in Budget 2022

Cork carer, who hasn't had a break since 2019, stresses need for support for carers in Budget 2022

Former Cork city councillor Marion O’Sullivan has been a carer for her brother Stephen Mackey for almost 15 years. Picture Dan Linehan

A CORK carer, who has not had a break since 2019, has stressed the need to support carers in the budget by ensuring they can take time off.

Former Cork City councillor Marion O’Sullivan has been a carer for her brother, Stephen Mackey, for 15 years.

Stephen has a severe intellectual disability and additional health issues. Ms O’Sullivan said his condition has deteriorated greatly in the past two years.

She said that it breaks her heart that she may one day have to put her brother in a home.

Speaking out ahead of tomorrow’s budget, Ms O’Sullivan said that she hopes that increased support for carers will be included.

She said that the last time she had a break was in May 2019, when a member of her family looked after Stephen while she took a holiday for a week.

Stephen requires full-time care, with Marion having to dress and shave him.

“There are huge issues for carers,” Ms O’Sullivan said. “The respite issue is one on everyone’s lips.”

She said: “It is breaking my heart that I might have to put him into a home in the future. I wake up at night in tears. I never wanted him to go into a home.”

Stressing how important it is for carers to have a break, she said: “If I cannot look after myself, how can I look after anyone else.”

She says the voices of carers are not heard by politicians because they are not in a position to protest.

Ms O’Sullivan said she plans to ask every politician who comes to her door seeking a vote about their policies regarding carers.

“We may not be able to protest, but we can vote. And there are 195,000 carers out there,” she said.

Government urged to introduce homecare scheme 

Family Carers Ireland says platitudes do not put food on the table or provide vital respite breaks to those caring 24/7 for family members with highly complex needs.

In its pre-budget submission, the organisation is seeking an annual entitlement to 20 days of respite for family carers as part of a statutory homecare scheme, a €150 increase in the carer’s support grant, and an €8 rise in weekly carer payments.

Communications and policy head Catherine Cox said: “Our family carers are at the frontline of healthcare every day —not just during the pandemic — and it is deeply concerning that they have no entitlement to any time away from their caring role.

“We firmly believe that the introduction of a statutory homecare scheme should include an annual respite entitlement of 20 days for family carers, in line with the basic annual leave entitlement for paid employees.”

'A big challenge' in Cork 

Fine Gael’s Cork North Central TD Colm Burke said there was a big problem with a lack of respite.

“It is a big challenge at the moment in trying to get respite. We are getting a lot of calls about it in my office.”

Fianna Fáil’s Cork North West TD Michael Moynihan agreed that respite care was a big issue. However, he also said that the criteria for the carers allowance should be done on the basis of care need instead of being means-tested.

“If the care is being given, the allowance should be given,” he said.

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