Chambers calls for an urgent review of how social care is delivered and its impact on local unpaid care providers
Alan Chambers MLA, Ulster Unionist Health spokesperson, has called for an urgent review of how social care is currently delivered in Northern Ireland and the impact it has on the health and lifestyle of over 220,000 local unpaid care providers.
Marking Carers Rights Day, the launch of a research document, The Economic Value of Unpaid Care in Northern Ireland, conducted on behalf of Carers NI, took place at an event in Belfast. The research revealed that unpaid carers are saving the NI Health and Social Care System the startling figure of around £5.8 billion per year. Since 2011, the value of unpaid care has increased in Wales by 17% and England by 30%, but in NI, it has increased by 42%
Alan Chambers, who attended the event and sat on a political Q&A panel, commented, “Caring for the needs of a loved one during advanced age or suffering from long-term illness is a very demanding role, especially if the carer has no family to share the burden with. Trying to balance employment demands alongside providing care has a major impact on the carer’s lifestyle. With limited respite support available, the carer loses the opportunity to have a normal social life as all their energy is directed towards tending to the needs of their loved one. Many carers begin their journey of caring at a very young age, which can rob them of the normal leisure and social activities enjoyed by their peers. Many feel isolated and devoid of support, which can lead to a negative impact on their mental health. Indeed, a recent report concluded that 1 in 4 unpaid carers were suffering from mental health issues. They live with the constant fear of what will happen to them or their loved ones if they fall ill and can no longer provide the care they currently provide. It is important that an incoming Assembly and Executive must address their plight, and it is important that they are given a voice on what reform looks like. Given the scale of the savings they provide the HSC system, they must have a seat at the discussion table in recognition that the unpaid care sector is a main player within the system.”