Offaly carers urged to answer Census question

CARERS in Offaly are being urged to stand up and be counted by answering question 22 in the 2011 Census.

CARERS in Offaly are being urged to stand up and be counted by answering question 22 in the 2011 Census.

In 2010 the Central Statistics Office estimated that Ireland could now have as many as 274,000 family carers, an increase nationwide of almost 71% on the number of carers counted in the last Census in 2006. This would put the number of family carers in Offaly now at 4,600, as opposed to the 2,691 at the last official count.

The Carers Count Campaign, a public information campaign designed to inform Offaly Carers about Census 2011, was launched last Friday.

The purpose of the campaign is to make all carers aware that question 22, which refers to “unpaid help” in next month’s Census, is about family carers and to ensure all family carers in Offaly, both full and part-time, answer this question. Census 2011 will take place on Sunday April 10.

According to the Carers Count Campaign organisers, an alliance of 10 care related groups, Census 2011 provides a unique opportunity to quantify the number of and unpaid work provided by Offaly’s family carers.

A true picture will depend on all carers firstly recognising that they provide “unpaid help” as asked in question 22, and then accurately counting and filling in their weekly hours of care on the Census form.

Quantifying the work of Ireland’s carers will ensure that caring organisations, the HSE and other service providers can ensure adequate service provision for carers and their families. It will also ultimately provide Government with accurate data to shape future policy. In addition, the valuable unpaid work of family carers, estimated to save the state over €2.5bn per annum, will be officially recognised.

The exact wording of question 22 will be : “Do you provide regular unpaid personal help for a friend or family member, with a long term illness, health problem or disability?”.

“Regular” is deemed to range from one hour, day or night per week, to occasional weekends or holiday relief, up to fulltime day and night care. It is a recurring commitment made by Offaly carers to those that they care for.

Carers receiving the Carers Allowance or other such payment from the Department of Social Welfare, are deemed “unpaid” and should therefore answer Question 22.

Carers with fulltime jobs, who care for their loved ones when they are not at work, provide “regular unpaid personal help” and should answer question 22.

“Personal help” includes regular daily tasks that the person receiving care is unable to perform for themselves. This varies for those who are elderly, physically or mentally disabled or suffering from a variety of health problems, but will typically include washing, dressing, feeding, shopping and medical visits.

“Personal help” also includes being there when the person cared for cannot be left alone.

Question 22 also requires that the county’s family carers quantify their hours of care per week. A fulltime carer who must be present to provide day and night care every day should quantify their care as 168 hours per week, which equals 24 hours x seven days. Care provided each weekend will be quantified as 48 hours per week (24 hours x two days) and morning or afternoon care will equate to 28 hours per week (four hours x seven days). Caring hours do not only refer to hands-on care like dressing or feeding, but also to essential shopping and doctors visits or hours of essential companionship or supervision. Tools are available at and the specially developed myCareTime app can be downloaded from iTunes to help Family carers to track and quantify their hours of caring each week.

For the first time in Ireland, Census 2011 recognises and will include persons under 15 years of age who “provide regular unpaid help”. A young carer is a child or young person under 15 whose life is affected in a significant way by the need to provide care for a family or household member who has an illness, disability, addiction or other care requirement.

Accurate figures on the number of young carers and the extent of care that they provide will enable the planning and provision of better support services to help Offaly’s young carers. The Carers Count Campaign says it is vital that Young Carers be included when filling out the Census form.

“In the 2006 Census, 160,917 Irish people identified themselves as providing regular unpaid personal help. Based on CSO figures from last year and our own first hand experience, we believe this figure now vastly under-represents the numbers of Family Carers in Ireland. We believe the gap is mainly in the group of carers who are also in paid employment or education, and therefore do not recognise themselves to be Carers, and under age carers. However, there is also a deficit in the fulltime carers numbers, as many full-time family carers on the State Carers Allowance do not consider themselves to be providing unpaid care. There is also ambiguity about what hours to count, with essential companionship or supervision, not always viewed as regular personal help.” said Frank Goodwin, Carers Count Campaign and Chairman, The Carers Association.

“In Census 2011 Carers will be asked to calculate the number of hours per week that they provide regular unpaid help. In the last Census, carers had tick-box options, so we are hopeful that this change will paint a more accurate picture of family carers in Ireland today. We urge all those who provide help of this type to make their mark on question 22 and calculate their weekly hours of care. It is only by getting accurate information on the number and amount of work carried out by Family Carers that their work can be recognised and adequate service provision put in place to support them and their loved ones,” concluded Mr Goodwin.

The Carers Count Campaign is an alliance of the following care related groups, The Carers Association of Ireland; Care Alliance Ireland; Caring for Carers Ireland; Cúram; Inclusion Ireland; Age Action Ireland; The Alzheimer Society of Ireland; Crosscare; Disability Federation of Ireland; Irish Senior Citizens Parliament. Carers Count is a non-political campaign and is supported by the CSO. Family Carers are reminded that information collected in the Census is guaranteed by law to be completely confidential.