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Unpaid carers in Northern Ireland missing out on vital support as ‘public unable to recognise friends and family that care’

24 November 2017

Nearly half (45%) believe they ‘don’t know’ a single friend or family member looking after a loved one, despite 1 in 10 Northern Irish people being carers.

The Northern Irish public remains ‘in the dark’ as a majority drastically underestimate the number of carers in their own family, friendship groups and places of work, according to new research by Carers UK released for Carers Rights Day (24 November).

The research shows that nearly half (47%) believe they don’t know a single family member or friend who cares, whilst only 1 in 4 workers (28%) know a work colleague looking after a loved one. In reality, nearly 1 in 10 (12%) in Northern Ireland are carers and 1 in 9 people in the UK workforce juggle a paid job with unpaid caring[1].  

The findings come one year after Carers UK’s Missing Out report showed[2] the impact of carers across the UK not being identified quickly enough. Amongst carers who ‘struggled’ to recognise their roles, half saw their finances (50%) and mental health (76%) negatively affected as a result.

The poll finds that Northern Ireland is the least confident nation when it comes to supporting carers, with only 54% feeling confident providing ‘emotional support’ compared to the UK average of 67%. Even fewer Northern Irish residents felt confident directing carers to practical support, with only 2 in 5 (35%) reporting confidence, compared with the UK average (42%). In response, Carers NI is asking the public to equip themselves with more knowledge and understanding of how to support carers, to improve levels of confidence.

Across the UK, the findings also revealed differences amongst men and women, carers and non-carers, and those of different ages:

  • Gender: Women are more likely to say they know a friend or family member who is a carer (44%) compared with men (33%). Female workers (27%) are also more likely than men (17%) to say they know a colleague who is caring.

Among those that know carers, women were more likely (42%) than men (34%) to have suggested sources of information to friends and family and significantly more likely to have suggested information to colleagues with caring roles (35%) than men (25%).

  • Age: Despite being at the peak age of caring themselves, those aged 45-54 are only slightly more likely (40%) to say they have any family or friends that are carers compared with 39% of the wider public.
  • Carers and non-carers: Unsurprisingly, those who have never had an unpaid caring role are more likely (59%) to say they don’t have any friends or family who care. Only 17% of current carers say they don’t have any friends or family that are caring.

Clare-Anne Magee, General Manager of Carers NI said:

“Around 69,000 of us in Northern Ireland step into caring roles each year, yet carers all-too-often remain hidden in plain sight at work, in friendships, and even in the families. Often, we see ourselves as parents, husbands, wives and children doing our ‘duty’. Sometimes, it takes somebody else to tell us that we are a carer before we recognise ourselves as such.

This year, we are encouraging every member of the public to learn more about caring and where to go for advice and assistance. As a society we need to do more to identify and support carers in our communities so that we can alleviate some of the emotional and practical challenges facing the 214,000 people looking after an ill, older or disabled loved one in Northern Ireland.”

Every year, Carers NI uses Carers Rights Day (24 November) to reach carers with crucial information about the rights, financial support, and practical help they are entitled to; including benefits such as Carer’s Allowance, respite, equipment and technology.

This year, under the theme of ‘Make Connections, Get Support’, Carers NI is reaching out beyond the 1 in 10 of us who care, calling on the general public to equip themselves with enough knowledge to feel confident identifying and directing carers towards support.

Working with Carers UK, Carers NI has developed a range of tools in time for Carers Rights Day, to help both the general public and carers early in their caring journey get the information and support they need:



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