Fermanagh parents are backing the move by Northern Ireland charity, Mencap, to raise the profile of people who care for people with learning disabilities.
Eight out of 10 families from across Northern Ireland who care for sons and daughters with severe and profound learning disabilities have come to or have reached breaking point.
This is according to figures in a report Breaking Point - families still need a break published by Mencap. The survey, reveals families are living with intense levels of stress from the constant demands placed upon them and due to a continued lack of short break provision by health and social services.
Lending their support to the charity at their recent launch of the report were Malachy Corrigan, and Albert Hamilton, both parents from Fermanagh, and Caroline Kelly representing Fermanagh Mencap. Putting into words the stress, one mother commented: "Sometimes I feel like walking out and not coming back. I feel like I am living in a cage and can't get out.
I look at my life and I don't have one." This is a dreadful situation for families, which causes pain, despair and often irreparable damage. The answer is to provide short breaks from this unending responsibility to care yet the report revealed that 1 out of 3 families have actually experienced a cut in their short break services in the last year.
Short breaks can be provided in a range of settings, for example care at home or an overnight stay away from home. With seven out of 10 families surveyed not getting a break that fully meets their needs, Mencap is demanding breaks that are reliable, flexible and frequent.
The charity is calling for increased funding for short breaks to be addressed in the government's 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review and for a minimum standards guarantee to be introduced. This would entitle families in greatest need, to a minimum standard of one break a week, spread over the course of a year.
Mencap wants health and social services to produce more information on what short breaks they provide, whom they provide them to and how often. Current data is limited but Mencap believes that by collecting more information, health and social services will be able to highlight the problem and assess the cost of meeting this need. Mencap is calling on the government to provide increased funding to local trusts for short breaks.
According to the Mencap survey eight out of 10 families provide over 15 hours of care every day whilst half also provide care during the night. This constant care and disturbed nights can make people physically and mentally exhausted.
All carers who consider themselves in poor mental health attribute this to the amount of care they provide which impacts on the whole family. A seven-year- old girls mother commented, "I Ieft my husband because he was one less person to take care of, one less thing to do, or have a conversation with. Then we weren't getting enough respite."
With families still experiencing breaking point in Northern Ireland, Mencap is calling for an urgent improvement in short breaks available. For more information on supporting Mencap's Breaking Point campaign, visit
Mencap demands break for families
Publication Fermanagh Herald
Date September 13, 2006
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