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100,000 join ranks of unpaid carers in Northern Ireland due to coronavirus crisis


Appeal: Clare-Anne Magee

Appeal: Clare-Anne Magee

Appeal: Clare-Anne Magee

Almost 100,000 people in Northern Ireland have become unpaid carers because of Covid-19, new figures have revealed.

Research by Carers NI found about 98,000 had stepped up to look after vulnerable loved ones since the outbreak.

The number of carers here has jumped by almost a third in under three months to 310,000.

New statistics show more than half are also juggling work - sometimes alongside intensive care-like lifting and supervising medication.

And it has increased the responsibilities of existing carers and removed support.

Charities are calling on the Government for an urgent increase to their allowance, currently £67.25 a week, and a one-off coronavirus supplement.

Orla Fitzsimons is a carer for her 14-year-old son. She said the pandemic had made them more isolated, cutting them off from services and respite with the closure of special schools.

"A lot of parent carers are single parents or they rely on parents for respite care for children with disabilities, and of course this has been removed," she said.

But Ms Fitzsimons said Covid-19 had also made carers more visible.

She added: "Everyone is experiencing what we have for decades, with no voice. And that's changing, I can see it changing for the better."

Clare-Anne Magee, director of Carers NI, said Stormont needed to make sure carers were looked after.

Charities - Carers NI, part of Carers UK; Age UK; Carers Trust; Motor Neurone Disease Association; Oxfam GB, and Rethink Mental Illness - also want a plan for long-term social reform and investment in care and support services to give unpaid carers respite, and help them stay in paid work if they want to.

Ms Magee said: "The Government must not take unpaid carers for granted in this crisis. It is imperative that, moving out of the pandemic, the Government rebuilds our care system and brings forward more robust legislation so that carers are protected and supported, and families have the services they need."

Belfast Telegraph