Help Needed For NI's Carers: BMA

A major national medical conference has been urged to lobby the Government to "do more to support carers".

Dr Paul Darragh, Chairman of the British Medical Association's (BMA) Northern Ireland Council, spoke out as the body launched its policy 'Supporting carers and young carers in Northern Ireland'.

He told the BMA's annual conference in Brighton that the public sector expected too much from those caring for loved ones.

"Support for carers must be increased as a matter of urgency," he said.

He explained there are around 185,000 people in Northern Ireland who provide help and support to frail or ill family and friends, saving huge sums of public money that would otherwise be deployed to do the same work.

Dr Paul Darragh continued: "Without doubt, carers make a significant and vital contribution to people's lives and to society in general through their unselfish, caring actions.

"The health service also benefits enormously, not least due to the billions of pounds saved due to the unpaid care these individuals give."

He said that the BMA (NI) believes that there is an excessive burden placed on carers and that there is a huge reliance on informal carers: "This is a direct consequence of inadequate funding of services in the community, which will only get worse in these financially straitened times. This has to be addressed."

The Chief Executive of Crossroads Caring for Carers, Christine Best said: "We provide respite services to carers of all ages. Due to the specific difficulties that young carers face, the Crossroads Young Carers Project was launched in 1994 to offer social outings, befriending, and practical help to young carers as well as actively raising awareness about the issue of young carers.

"It is essential that young carers need to be identified so that their caring responsibilities do not impact on their physical and emotional development," she said.

Dr Darragh concluded: "Young carers must be supported to achieve a balance between their caring responsibilities and their rights to be children and young people. All carers have a right to access better care for their loved ones.

"BMA looks forward to working constructively with the Minister to improve the lives of carers in Northern Ireland."


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