Over 2000 carers under 10
New census figures show that there are almost 2,000 family carers under 10 years old in Ireland. It is the first time that the number of young carers has been calculated.
Cork woman Maria Maher, who cared for her mother from the age of 13 and won Young Carer of the Year in 2009, was surprised by just how large the figures are.
Now aged 22, Maria said, “it’s quite a shocking figure but a lot of children just end up helping out grandparents or parents, when they are just living with them”.
She said that when she was named Young Carer of the Year, it was a shock to her to think of herself as a carer.
“I was living at home, so obviously I was going to help out my mother”, explained Maria, whose mother became wheelchair bound following complications after her she fell. Maria was 12 at the time.
She thinks that becoming a carer didn’t affect her much. “I was going to school and thought of myself as a regular teenager. I was lucky because I had a great support network, living in Ballincollig.
“For a child carer in an isolated situation, it may be much more difficult,” she said.
Peter Cox, from the Carer’s Association in Cork, says that there is little support out there for young carers at the moment, something they need but doesn’t happen much in this country. Issues that come up with regard to young kids caring include their schooling, social skills and life skills.
“Even if a child is providing only a couple of hours care, it may be affecting their education and in the long term, their future career."
He says there is a difficulty in identifying young carers, as it’s not seen as being “cool”. This is the first census to try to identify the number of young carers.
Mr Cox also said that there is very little support for most carers, young and old, with a lot of restrictions.
“A student who attends college for more than 15 hours a week cannot get Carer’s Allowance,” he told the Cork Independent, something that makes third level education much harder for many young carers.
He added “we are so far behind the UK in terms of having supports for young carers”.
Rise in number of family carers
Latest figures released by Census 2011 also reveal a 16 per cent increase in the overall number of family carers from 161,000 to 187,112.
Based on this increase, the Carers Association calculates that Ireland’s family carers now contribute €11 million per day, providing 900,000 hours of care daily and saving the state over €4.7 million each year. Census 2011 also found that 21 per cent of family carers provide over 43 hours of care per week.