A new government. An old fight. This morning I’m contemplating how to best bring this old fight for rights of family carers and their profoundly disabled loved ones to the shiny, new table of just appointed Government Ministers. We’ve lobbied. We’ve met in person. We’ve emailed. We’ve shouted on Twitter. We’ve spoken on the phone. We’ve even WhatsApp’d. Still, the same long-standing struggles remain.
Would it help if we whispered?
Parents know the old trick of whispering to get your child’s attention. The child looks up…”uh oh, this is serious. She’s whispering her upset to me now.” Is that what we need to do? Let this piece be that whisper. Frankly, it’s about all I have energy for at the moment anyway. Shouting sounds exhausting, because after months home bound caring 24/7 with no break and no relief in sight thanks to COVID19, we (carers) are exhausted. And dare I add that we lone parent carers are beyond exhausted.
Hear our whisper.
Last week, a thought came to me: I’m going to stop saying I care. I’m going to now say I work for Brendan Bjorn. Why? Because I do. How so? Because if he was anyone other than my own son, it would indeed be called work; I would be employed with a living wage, pension, time off, and the rights of any other worker.
The way I see it, there are four different options
to lay on those shiny new Ministerial tables.
1. Reclassify the Carer’s role from social welfare into a Carer’s employment contract resulting in an income at fair market rate with a salaried wage commensurate to duties performed and the hours worked, complete with payment into PRSI and pension.
2. Establish the voluntary Colorado-model of training and certifying Family Carers as Health Care Assistants where they are employed by healthcare agencies as the HCA for their disabled family member, complete with salary, pension, and all related benefits.
3. Hire a full time nurse to come into the home (or provide nursing level day centres) to take care of our profoundly disabled family members so we, the carers, can go out and work full time, be an active part of the economy, resume our careers, and have a life outside of caring.
4. Pay all Family Carers the full Carer’s Allowance without the restriction of a means test.
Personally, I prefer options 1, 2 or 3 for a number of reasons, the most important of which are because:
- Family Carers are absolutely working (often very skilled work, to be noted – and as such are deserving of the same rights and privileges of any other class of worker)
- As employed individuals, we would have the ability to obtain much needed lines of credit for the many extraordinary expenses we face.
- Many of us are genuinely sacrificing our own physical health by the work we are doing day in and day out. We will not be able to survive on a pension which hasn’t reflected our years of dedicated, hard work. If we don’t have that fair pension at retirement age, we will only become more financially dependent upon the State for support, not less.
But alas, this is a topic with many finer details to be discussed and debated. For now, during this continued lockdown for Family Carers and their medically vulnerable loved ones, the immediate – URGENT – issue is providing relief in whatever manner best suits each family individually. For some it will be the reopening of day centre services. For others it will be in home nursing respite (note: it must be without the Loco Parentis restriction which keeps the parent carer from leaving their home during respite!). And for others, it may look entirely different.
This is my whisper to the new Government. I hope you all hear it. Let’s talk.