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Carers NI

There are approx. 214,000 carers in NI according to the last census. It is estimated that carers save the NI economy £4.4billion per year and evidence shows that people providing high levels of care are twice as likely to be permanently sick or disabled than the average person

Caring for an older or disabled loved one can take a serious toll on carers’ mental and physical health, their personal relationships and family finances. Without the support they need, this can lead to carers’ collapsing through exhaustion, suffering physical injury or becoming overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. A recent Carers UK report based on responses of over 5000 carers (2014) noted that 6 in 10 carers have been pushed to breaking point and a quarter of those who had reached breaking point required medical treatment as a result. Almost half of those questioned said they had fallen ill but had to continue caring and 1 in 9 said the person they cared for had to be rushed to hospital, emergency care or social services had to step in to look after them whilst their carer recovered from illness.

Caring is a physically and emotionally demanding role and often, carers are unaware of their rights, one of which is the right to a Carers Assessment from their local H&SC Trust. A Carers Assessment provides carers with a plan on how to best support them to continue to care for as long as possible (this might include factoring in short breaks, access to local carers groups etc). Around 1500 carers per year contact our advice line/email service seeking support. We provide information and advice to carers on Carers Assessments (including requesting an assessment and the process of assessment), Benefits, Taking a Break from Caring etc all of which helps to support the emotional and physical health of the carer. Our advice service also signposts carers to local support services and to local Carer Co-ordinators as a means of supporting their needs before they reach crisis point. We encourage carers to register as Carers with their GP’s and local H&SC Trusts so that they may avail of the local supports available to them.

We co-ordinate Carers Groups in the Northern H&SC Trust area which links carers into local services as well as providing peer-to-peer support. We currently support over 50 carers per month in the Northern Trust area through the carer support groups.

We also provide training on Carers rights and Carers Assessments to professionals working with carers (approx. 100 front-line staff trained per year for the past 8 years). We provide annual Learning Disability and Carer Reviews for GP practices in the Northern Trust area on a regular basis, dealing directly with over 100 carers.

In the recent past, under AP funding, we also delivered projects on self-advocacy for carers.