Concern as value of unpaid care increases in Southern Trust area by 44%
In 2021, there were 43,370 unpaid home carers in the Southern Health Trust area, up from 40,607 in 2011, a jump of 6.8%. The Northern Ireland average for the increase of unpaid carers during the decade studied was only 3.85%, from 213,980 in 2011 to 222,216 unpaid carers in 2021.
The Carers NI report also shows the significant financial contributions of the unpaid work of the carers to local health trusts and the NHS. Carers NI concluded that the unpaid contribution of home carers equated to £5.8 billion, or in other terms, 85% of the health budget for Northern Ireland for 2021/2022.
In the Southern Health Trust, the value of unpaid care has increased by 44% from 2011 to 2021, totalling £1.167 billion. In comparison, the value of unpaid care in England and Wales has increased by 30.3% and 16.7% respectively.
The research shows that a third of unpaid carers haven’t had a break within the last year, and that a quarter are living on the poverty line.
Craig Harrison of Carers NI said: “We have always known that unpaid carers make an immense contribution, but this research report underlines the sheer scale of it.
“Northern Ireland would be in deep trouble without our unpaid carers, and it is time we gave them the recognition, help and support they deserve.”
Sinn Fein’s Liz Kimmins, MLA for Newry and Armagh said: “The number of people caring for their loved ones, working long hours unpaid in the Southern Trust area and across the north is deeply concerning.
“This work is extremely challenging and without support it puts further pressure on ordinary people already struggling with the rising cost of living.
“Carers need a health minister in place and an Executive working together to invest in the health service, to hire more staff, deliver more care packages and tackle waiting lists now.”
The SDLP’s Colin McGrath, MLA for South Down said: ““When Stormont returns the SDLP opposition will do whatever we can to highlight the plight of unpaid carers and to push the new Executive to recognise their contribution.
“We cannot have people who give so much being left to rely on so little. The plight of carers was made clear and it’s imperative that we give them a voice and push for meaningful change.”