I’m delighted to be here this morning to help launch Family Carers Ireland, which brings together two great organisations: the Carers Association and Caring for Carers Ireland.
The creation of this new body represents a very positive milestone for Ireland’s carers.
It will ensure that, in the future, all carers can have access to a stronger, more sustainable, carer-centred organisation.
As we know, carers play an absolutely invaluable role in society.
Carers take on an extremely demanding job, and in doing so, put on hold their own personal goals and ambitions.
It’s vital there is a proper support network for carers to tap into - and I’ve no doubt that Family Carers Ireland will fulfil that role.
I regularly meet carers in the community, and I’m acutely aware of the many varied reasons why care might be required for a loved one.
It might be a sudden acquired injury, the birth of a child with a disability, the deteriorating health of an elderly parent, or a teenager or partner who develops a mental health issue.
I am always humbled and heartened by the resolve, resilience and adaptability of individual carers and their dedication to the care of their loved ones.
It is from the shared experience of caring, and the recognition of the need to support family carers, that the Carers Association and Caring for Carers were formed a quarter of a century ago.
Each had common objectives relating to providing supports, services and training and an involvement in research and policy development.
But each also had a slightly different emphasis.
Caring for Carers, based in Clare, focussed on the provision of clinical or nurse-led care, and providing an annual respite weekend for family carers.
The Carers Association, formed in Dublin, focussed heavily on social care and providing a dedicated National Free Phone Care Line as well as legal and mediation supports for family carers.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all carers for the immense contribution they make to society and also thank the many organisations that contribute to supporting carers.
The support provided by the Carers Association and Caring for Carers has been instrumental in ensuring that the needs of carers, and those they care for, are emphasised and addressed and that there is an appropriate Government policy response.
The publication by Government of the National Carers Strategy in 2012, to which both organisations contributed, represented an important landmark in ensuring that carers are recognised, supported and empowered to perform their role.
I know recent years have been hugely challenging for carers, given the scale and depth of the economic crisis.
In grappling with that crisis, the Government sought at all times to protect services to the greatest extent possible and to bring about recovery as quickly as possible, so that we could increase investment in vital areas.
Thankfully, the recovery is firmly under way now, and in the last two Budgets, we have been able to make a series of targeted increases to assist carers.
While modest steps, they are part of our wider plan to sustain the recovery and spread the benefits to every household.
In the most recent Budget, we restored the Carer’s Support Grant (formerly the Respite Care Grant) to €1,750.
We also doubled the period during which Carer’s Allowance is paid following the death of a care recipient.
And we paid a 75% Christmas bonus to benefit carers as well as a wide range of other people in receipt of welfare supports.
I’m pleased to confirm today that, in addition to those measures, I have approved the payment of €1 million under the Dormant Accounts Action Plan for 16 projects that will provide training and supports for carers in 2016.
This includes a €300,000 allocation for training and support measures that will benefit the newly formed Family Carers Ireland.
In all, this year, my Department will spend €911 million to support carers, up from €761 million in 2011.
This funding will help to support about 93,000 carers – a number which highlights, I think, the extraordinary degree to which people across this country care for loved ones every single day.
Looking ahead, as Labour Leader, I’m determined that we use the proceeds of recovery to invest in services first and foremost.
With the resources available to the next government, I favour a 3:1 split between investment and tax reform.
This means that for every €1 of tax reductions, €3 would be invested in essential services, such as our schools, hospitals and communities.
Our vision is to sustain a strong economy in order to build a decent society.
Labour will stand up for good services and the people dependent on them.
Today’s launch of Family Carers Ireland will provide a nationwide network of supports and a national voice for carers.
I welcome the establishment of Family Carers Ireland and look forward to working with you to ensure that the existing framework of supports for carers is enhanced.
I wish you every success in your new enhanced organisation.