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Unpaid carers ‘going hungry’ as living costs soar, new report warns

by Fiona Collie 02 August 2022

People providing unpaid care for sick or disabled family members in Northern Ireland are being forced to skip meals and sit in the dark because of rising household bills, a new report has warned. [1]

Published today (2 August) by Carers NI and based on the experiences of carers and advocacy groups across Northern Ireland, [2] the report argues that unpaid carers have been among the hardest hit by the cost of living crisis. It calls on Stormont to provide greater financial support to stop carers falling into poverty

Joe Dickey, from Belfast, provides care for his daughter Ellie, who has Spina Bifida, hydrocephalus and epilepsy. He said:

“As a parent of a child with complex needs, the increase in electricity and gas prices mean we have now reached a point where our energy costs are as expensive as a mortgage every month. Even in normal times, our fuel bill is more expensive than most of our friends and family, as we need to have the home heated appropriately while also having the windows open to ensure a safe environment with clean air. We have an oxygen machine running all day, a ventilator at nights, a blood oxygen monitor on 24/7 and sensory equipment on for most of the day, alongside other medical equipment which needs to be charged. The requirement for this equipment hasn’t decreased, but the cost of running it has increased substantially. In a household where one parent works and the other is a full-time carer, it is extremely difficult to see how the situation is going to improve.”

Carers NI is calling for new carer heating payments, the local introduction of a Carers Allowance Supplement scheme similar to that in Scotland, [3] and other measures to help unpaid carers in Northern Ireland cope with the cost of living crisis.

Craig Harrison, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Carers NI, said:

“Unpaid carers across Northern Ireland are being pummelled by the cost of living crisis. Many were already struggling even before the price of daily essentials began to rise so steeply, and we now have carers going hungry and sitting in the dark because they just can’t afford their food, energy and other household bills. This is totally unacceptable.

“These are people that save the public purse billions of pounds in care costs every year. Too often, what they face in return are insurmountable barriers to paid work and a welfare system that doesn’t support even a basic standard of living. More and more carers will be pushed into hardship and poverty if we don’t start delivering greater financial support for them. Solutions are needed from government and they are needed quickly.”

-ENDS-

 Media contacts

Please contact Carers NI at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 07905615762.

Please note: Joe Dickey does not wish to take part in any further media interviews.

Notes to editors

  1.  The report Unpaid carers, poverty and the cost of living crisis in Northern Ireland: Policy solutions white paper can be downloaded here.
  2. The report is based on the views and experiences of unpaid carers and organisations representing carers across the age spectrum; parent carers; women carers; carers of people with mental ill-health, physical disabilities and life-limiting illnesses; fuel poverty campaigners; food bank providers; and more.
  3. The Carers Allowance Supplement scheme in Scotland is a twice-yearly payment worth a combined total of nearly £500 for those in receipt of Carers Allowance. It has been shown to help carers in Scotland to pay for essential household expenses that they would otherwise have struggled to afford, relieve money worries, enable carers to pay off debts and improve carers’ mental health and wellbeing. For more information see: https://www.gov.scot/publications/evaluation-carers-allowance-supplement/.
  4. Carers NI is Northern Ireland’s membership charity for unpaid carers. We work to represent and support the near 300,000 people in Northern Ireland who provide unpaid care for ill, older or disabled family members or friends – fighting for increased recognition and support for all carers and to ensure they have a voice in policymaking.
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