Brian Looram (carer support information officer), Minister Robert Troy, Minister Mary Butler, Deputy Sorca Clarke, John Dunne (chief executive) and Paul Farrell (carer support manager) at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Carers 'rose to the challenge' - Minister Butler

Clodagh McKeon

The Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler says Family Carers Ireland “rose quickly to the challenge” when it came to providing quality home care during the pandemic.

Minister Mary Butler officially opened Family Carers Ireland’s new Longford Westmeath Carer Support Centre on Castle Street in Mullingar today.

Minister Butler was joined by fellow Minister Robert Troy, the chief executive of Family Carers Ireland, John Dunne, members of An Garda Síochána and a number of staff from Family Carers Ireland.

The centre will offer services to fam­ily carers across Westmeath and Longford, including information and advocacy regarding their rights and entitlements, training and workshops, support in accessing respite, group meetings and social events to help combat isolation, advice on care planning and crisis support.

Elaine Galgin (team lead) with Joan McCloud (office manager). Photo by Thomas Gibbons

Family Carers Ireland supports the 500,000+ people in Ireland who provide care for loved ones such as children or adults with additional needs, physical or intellectual disabilities, frail older people, those with palliative care needs or those living with chronic illnesses, mental health challenges, or addiction.

Minister Butler said: “I am honoured to be in attendance here today in Mullingar for the opening of Family Carers Ireland’s new Carer Support Centre. I recognise the important role that family carers play in the provision of care in Ireland. Family carers are the backbone of care provision in our country and care for the most vulnerable in our society.

“Whether caring for a child or a parent with a disability or illness or an elderly family member, carers, through their selfless hard work, knowledge and compassion enhance the quality of life of the most vulnerable in our society on a daily basis. I also wish to acknowledge the hard work done by everybody in the opening of this new Support Centre.”

Denise Nolan and Claire Duffy from Family Carers Ireland. Photo by Thomas Gibbons

The minister spoke about her own experiences caring for her father after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She said: “I lost my own dad in 1995. He was 59 and I cared for him for many months. I don’t think it will ever leave me having to care for my dad at home when he really needed me.

“I do think it’s important that people acknowledge what a caring role is.”

Minister Butler also commented on the budget for the caring sector: “We are in a situation where we have more money to spend and I will always do my best to try to spend it. My budget for home care is €672 million.

“Unfortunately we now have a situation where there are 55,000 people getting cared for at home by healthcare workers but there are over 5,000 people on waiting lists in need of care. The reason we can’t deliver that care is we just don’t have the staff to do it.”

The minister reassured everyone that her team and Family Carers Ireland are actively working on resolving the problem so that people get the care they need.

Claire Duffy, Policy and Public Affairs manager for Family Carers Ireland, briefly spoke and thanked Minister Robert Troy for his contribution.

She said: “We mentioned to Robert in passing that we couldn’t find an office space and he just pulled one out of the bag, so thank you very much.”

Margie and Laura Gervasoni at the opening on Thursday. Photo by Thomas Gibbons

Speaking after the official opening, Minister Troy today is an important day for family carers across Longford and Westmeath “and it is a privilege for me to be here to mark the opening of the new Carer Support Centre in Mullingar”.

“This centre will be an invaluable resource and support for those caring for family members in the community. I was delighted to work with Family Carers Ireland to ensure this vital advocacy and support network remained in Mullingar and want to acknowledge all who made this centre possible.

“The last two years have been extraordinarily challenging, and I want to pay tribute to the carers across Longford and Westmeath who are the backbone of the community, providing care for the most vulnerable in our society. Often the care and support by family carers goes unseen but it is very much appreciated, and I hope this centre will enable them to connect with each other, share knowledge, and seek support as they need.”

Aine and Fionnula Heap from Mullingar. Photo by Thomas Gibbons
Billy Mac with Garda Paul Martin and Garda Debbie Macken from the Mullingar Community Policing Unit. Photo by Thomas Gibbons