MORE THAN 250,000 people in Northern Ireland have suffered negative impacts on their health as a result of providing unpaid care for a sick or disabled family member, new research published for Carers Week 2023 has shown. 

In a poll from YouGov, nearly one in three (32 per cent) current or former unpaid carers in Northern Ireland said supporting their loved one had led to negative effects on their health and wellbeing.

Campaigners say the health of unpaid carers is being jeopardised by political stalemate at Stormont and the failure to create a fit-for-purpose health service to support them. They have called for regular access to respite and greater provision of social care packages, to give unpaid carers a break and help protect them from exhaustion and burnout.

Craig Harrison, Public Affairs Manager for Carers NI, said: “These findings paint a damning picture of the extent to which our unpaid carers are forced to sacrifice their own wellbeing everyday as the price of supporting their loved ones. With a fit-for-purpose health and social care system we could better protect the local carer population, but the failure to deliver the reform the system needs, mixed with a lack of political leadership from an empty Stormont, is jeopardising the health of our unpaid carers on a massive scale. Exhaustion, burnout and breakdown among our carers is the result.

“We can’t keep asking unpaid carers to prop up the health service and provide hundreds of thousands of hours of free care every week with little-to-no support in return. They need regular access to respite, high quality social care packages and a health service that treats their needs as a priority. The last Health Minister published a roadmap to make those things a reality, but it won’t be delivered so long as Stormont sits in a deep freeze.”

In the poll, 27 per cent of people who have provided unpaid care in Northern Ireland also said their relationships with friends and family had suffered due to their caring role, while nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said unpaid caring had affected their job or ability to work.

* Source: Carers NI