People providing unpaid care for sick and disabled loved ones in Northern Ireland (NI) are facing “exhaustion and burnout” because support services have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, a charity has warned.
Carers NI is calling for the full re-opening of day services, short breaks and respite support to help unpaid carers cope with the demands of caring and look after their own health.
Craig Harrison, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Carers NI, said: “More than two years after the pandemic began, unpaid carers have still not seen the services they desperately rely on returning to full pre-Covid levels.
“They have been shouldering an even greater burden of care as a result, and their health and wellbeing is suffering massively. They are being pushed to exhaustion and burnout.
“Our last survey of unpaid carers showed that nearly half had faced a reduction in day services and over a-third had experienced reduced access to short breaks.
“Despite the Department of Health approving a strategy to remobilise these services in January of this year, carers are telling us that progress has been slow and all of the support they need is still not there.
“For many people in Northern Ireland, life has largely returned to normal since the worst days of the pandemic, but this isn’t the reality for all of our carer population.
“Day services and respite support provide a lifeline for many carers, helping them to take a break from caring, recharge their batteries and tend to their own health and wellbeing.
“Fully re-opening these services needs to be an urgent priority across Northern Ireland.”
Carers NI’s last State of Caring survey, carried out between August-September 2021 and published in March 2022, found that 48% of carers faced reduced day services and 36% had experienced reduced short break services.
According to the survey, just 12% of carers said that day care services had fully re-opened to pre-pandemic levels.