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Author: Carers Northern Ireland
Published on 11 May 2011 12:00 PM

New estimates, calculated by the University of Leeds for Carers Northern Ireland, show the unpaid care provided by friends and family members to ill, frail or disabled relatives is now worth a staggering £4.4 billion every year.


  • The figure has risen by over a third since the 2007 estimate, which stood at £3.12billion
  • Carers’ contribution now exceeds the total cost of the health and social care service in Northern Ireland (£3.6 billion).

University of Leeds estimates that there are over 207,000 people in Northern Ireland (1 in 9) providing care for ill or disabled people which would otherwise cost the state £18 an hour, based on UK average rates. This means that each carer saves on average more than £21,000 a year.

Given this massive contribution, Carers Northern Ireland argues that society must do more to support growing numbers of carers. Helen Ferguson, Director, said:

"Our society and public services could not function without the massive contribution made by Northern Ireland’s unpaid carers. This contribution is something we can be proud of as a country, and demonstrates how strong our families and communities are.

With an ageing population, caring is becoming a fact of life for every family. Yet, whilst families are meeting this challenge, many are struggling with little or no help, or facing cuts to the care services and benefits they rely on. Unless we urgently rethink how our society supports carers, we will see increasing numbers pushed to breaking point – forced out of work and into poverty, ill-health and isolation.

For the newly elected Northern Ireland Assembly we have a clear message: carers contribute so much and they deserve better in return."

Carers Northern Ireland is calling for:

  • An urgent review of Carer’s Allowance, which is the lowest benefit of its kind.
  • The Northern Ireland Assembly to protect funding for social care services to preserve the independence and dignity of disabled and older people and provide vital support to their families who care for them.
  • Reform and sustainable funding of the care and support system to recognise carers’ contribution and allow carers to live healthy lives alongside caring.
  • A new approach to supporting carers involving all parts of the society - including employer support in the workplace; being listened to and valued by public services and identified and supported in communities.

Carers can calculate their individual contribution using Carers Northern Ireland’s new ‘Care Calculator’, as well as accessing advice and information on all aspects of caring, at opens link in new window

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575