At the start of Carers Week, Health Minister Robin Swann has paid tribute to the thousands of carers across Northern Ireland.
Carers Week brings together individuals, groups and organisations to raise awareness of caring, highlights the challenges unpaid carers face and recognises the contribution they make to families and communities.
The Minister said: “Today marks the first day of Carers Week and I would like to pay tribute to all of our carers in Northern Ireland. Unpaid carers are the backbone of society, supporting family and loved ones who may otherwise struggle without that help.
“The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on the lives of all carers, and especially unpaid carers. Many have provided a significantly increased level of care and others have taken on new caring responsibilities for loved ones who are disabled, ill or elderly and who need support.
“This year’s theme for the week, ‘Make Caring Visible, Valued and Supported’, is very important because so much of what carers do goes on in family homes, seven days a week, and is often unseen but very much appreciated.”
Craig Harrison, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Carers NI, said: “Unpaid carers make a multi-billion pound contribution to Northern Ireland each year and this has only grown over the pandemic period. Many have seen their caring role intensify and their networks of support dwindle. Throughout this Carers Week and beyond, it’s important that we continue advocating for the support they need to look after their own health and take proper breaks from caring.”
In March, the Minister announced the allocation of more than £1m in the second round of grants from the Department of Health’s Support for Carers Fund. The latest awards from the £4.4m fund follow the allocation of almost £600,000 in the first round of funding, announced last September.
It’s part of a wider package of funding made available in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support carers, cancer charities and mental health organisations.
The Minister added: “When I launched the Support for Carers Fund last year, my focus was to support projects which would make a real difference to the lives of individual carers and I am delighted that we have been able to do that. A call for a third round of applications to the fund is now open, and will close on 20 June.”
Earlier this month, the Minister announced a further extension to the public consultation on Reform of Adult Social Care. Submissions can now be made up to July 1, 2022. Details on ways to respond to the consultation proposals can be found on the Department of Health website.
The Minister concluded: “The ongoing consultation on the Reform of Adult Social Care is hugely important and I would encourage as many people as possible, including unpaid carers, to respond and get involved in the discussion about these most vital of services.”