The Impact of Austerity on Family Caring in Ireland
The current paper focuses on research on family carers' initially carried out in the Cork area of Ireland in 2007-08 (O’Riordan et al, 2010) and updated in 2013/14 in the aftermath of the 2013 and 2014 austerity budgets. It describes the experiences of family carers and their access to support services in Ireland and shows how these have been affected by budgetary cuts. Historically, support for family carers in Ireland has largely been left to the voluntary sector, where it is exists, and a system of means-tested welfare payments, particularly vulnerable to cuts in times of austerity. The assumption made by the Irish State, by community services, by extended family members and friends and by carers themselves, has long been that the onus should be on close relatives, and particularly women, to take the major responsibility for caring, when this care takes place in the home (Timonen and McMenamin 2002; Lynch, 2007; O’Riordan et al, 2010). The influence of Catholic Social Teaching and the principle of subsidiarity, incorporated into the 1937 Constitution, have meant that state responsibility for, and oversight of, care has been minimal (Fanning, 2006; Considine and Dukelow, 2009).
The fall of the Celtic Tiger and the impact of subsequent austerity measures on the welfare system in Ireland have been well documented (Kirby, 2010, Considine and Dukelow, 2012). This paper aims to provide further insight by focusing on the impact of on-going welfare retrenchment in Ireland on one particularly vulnerable group in Ireland - family carers. The paper hopes to add to the comparative European literature on family caring (e.g. Boerma et al, 2011; WHO, 2008; Viitanen, 2007) by providing further evidence that family carers living in low interventionist states are highly vulnerable to the vagaries of economic downturn.
Dr Féilim Ó hAdhmaill and Dr. Jacqui O’Riordan, University College Cork, Ireland