Belfast Telegraph

Older carers 'being failed': Report raps deficiencies over health trust assessments

By Victoria O'Hara

A shocking report has revealed that 70% of older carers – who help save the Northern Ireland economy millions in health costs – are being failed by not getting vital Government support they are entitled to.

Health trusts are legally obliged to ensure carers are aware of their right to a carer's assessment that could provide extra support.

But a damning report published today by the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (OPNI) reveals that not only do 70% of older carers say they have not been offered an assessment, but 60% are not aware they were entitled to one.

The report also shows that of those who are assessed, 85% say they are not satisfied by the outcome, and many blast it as just a "paper exercise".

The Department of Health said, however, that 60% declined to accept the assessment, stating they did not feel that they required any additional support.

But OPNI says many decline it as they do not identify themselves as a carer, as they look after a close family member or a friend.

The report – Supporting Older Carers – says not enough is being done to promote awareness of their right to the assessment.

OPNI Commissioner Claire Keatinge has now demanded that older carers "cannot be taken for granted" and challenged the Health Minister to take urgent action to create targets to give them the help they are entitled to.

Figures show that one in eight of the population in NI is a family carer, the majority of them over the age of 60, and they save the economy millions every year.

"The findings of my report have shown that many older carers do not consider themselves to be carers, and so do not realise that there is support available to help them," Ms Keatinge said.

"Other older carers have told me that they didn't see the value of the carer's assessment as they did not feel that it would lead to any extra support but saw it as a 'paper exercise'. Older carers cannot be taken for granted; they deserve to be provided with the information, practical, emotional and respite support they need."

Carers NI director Helen Ferguson said too many older carers struggle without outside support, putting their own health at risk.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "It is important that these needs are properly understood and that service providers are prepared to respond with flexibility, offering carers real choice as to how their needs will be met.

"Carers often decline assessment, most often stating they do not feel that they require any further support, or that they do not consider themselves to be a carer."

Background

A carer's assessment will review needs and assess what support services can be provided.

Services that may help you and the person you care for include:

  • A break from caring
  • Help with housework
  • Changes to equipment or adaptations to the home
  • Emotional support

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