Carers, social welfare and the Republic of Opportunity


A couple of days ago, I was a guest on the Ray D’Arcy radio show. While the original focus was to be on my family’s housing situation, we ended up talking about a number of issues – from my proposal that Carers earn a living, pensionable wage, to the lack of suitable social housing for disabled children like my son Brendan Bjorn, to the fundraiser I am doing to purchase a new wheelchair accessible van for my son. The show provided me with the opportunity to tell the public a bit more about what the life of a carer is like in general and to share my proposal for paying carers in Ireland.

Now, while I’m talking about opportunity, let me take this opportunity to address those in power in this Republic of Opportunity who actually have the ability to make positive changes for children like my son Brendan and for carers like me: 

Carers, social welfare and housing. As I explained on the show (see link above to listen to the podcast), there is a model program out of Colorado that I would like to see introduced here in Ireland for carers such as myself. In short, it is where full time carers would actually be employed as a nursing assistant through a home nursing agency. The State would fund the full time carer to get the training, and once the certification is passed, the carer (ie: now employee) is then hired by a local home nursing agency. Funding for these wages are covered by the State under the umbrella of disability care the medical card provides to all disabled children. The rate of pay for each carer is then based on the level of nursing care duties performed, the daily hours, and amount of days per week, said care is provided for the disabled child or family member.

With a program such as this, the carer is now employed.
But what does that really mean for the carer…and society?

The carer is now paid a liveable wage, and as such, more funds will go back into stimulating the local and national economy.

The carer is now not classified as on social welfare, and as such, is able to apply for a vehicle and/or home loan and be less dependent on the charity of others and on social welfare.

The carer is now able to pay into a pension for retirement years, and as such, will not be a total “burden” on the State as otherwise would be if they were never able to pay into a pension fund.

Those are just a few of the benefits of this program. There is another aspect to this as well, and that is finally recognising carers for the professional-level work they actually do. It is about respect, dignity, and giving carers the opportunity to create a self-sufficient life as they dedicate their own life to caring for a loved-one who cannot care for themselves. 

Yesterday, as I often do, I was watching the Dail in session on TV. I jotted down a couple of quotes from our Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, as he discussed the 2018 budget:

  • “We believe work should pay and we make no apologies for saying so.”
  • “…rewarding work, protecting the most vulnerable and creating opportunity…”
  • And numerous mentions of “up early”, “working hard” and “opportunity”

I ask the reader to go back to what I said before I mentioned these quotes and think about my proposal for carers. Now consider this:

  • We work 24/7, yet are relegated to social welfare and the poverty trap it can often create. It does not pay, but it should pay, and I make no apologies for saying so.
  • We are the ones who are literally on the front line protecting the most vulnerable, yet we do not have the opportunity for our work being rewarded. This program would do that.
  • We get up early. We get up numerous times in the middle of the night. We work hard. In fact, we work damn hard. As for opportunity – many of us had to give up our opportunity called a professional career when, as fate would have it, we had a child born with severe disability…but we still want the opportunity to make the most out of our lives, with respect, equality, and fairness, commensurate with the work we do. 

Back to the Ray D’Arcy show. Someone called or texted in the following message. I leave it here with the following question: Is this what the government thinks of carers, too?

“We can’t give mortgages to people on social welfare or we’d have a whole class of people having 12 kids to get enough child benefit to qualify.”

I still have the dream of owning my own home, providing my two sons with a home for a lifetime. I still hope the county council will see my Carer’s Allowance and other social welfare payments as income, so that I can avail of their low interest mortgage loan program for people on their housing list and buy that dream house that is currently on the market. I still want to be self-sufficient, respected, considered equal by my government leaders, and live a life where the hard work I do is rewarded fairly. And I still want my youngest son to be able to see all of this happening and be proud to call me his mother.

with Ray D'Arcy

**As a result of being on the show, the past 2 days have seen the goal of a new, reliable and safe van coming ever so close. I want to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU, not only to Ray for being so kind and supportive, but to all of you who have so generously donated at hearing our story on Ray’s show. Bless you all!! 

4 thoughts on “Carers, social welfare and the Republic of Opportunity

  1. Fiona

    Hi Tracey,
    I heard you on the radio the other day- well done! Such sensible suggestions. Good luck with your accessible van & I hope you get a more suitable home soon. I have a son with similar problems – I understand how bad the services can be & how tough it can be on parents.

  2. Imelda

    Hi Tracey
    These are such good suggestions. A scheme such as this would have many positive outcomes even for government’s own statistics!
    I am in England but the same issues are here.
    I would like to know a little more about this model.

  3. Ruth

    Excellent article Tracy some really good points about carers allowance and poverty trap. There should be more opportunities for carers to access loans , mortgage etc and not be labeled as on social welfare. We work so hard caring in the home for vulnerable children and save the state a fortune by doing so. It’s about time the work carers do 24/7 is recognized.

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