The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Claire Keatinge, has launched a report which shows that many older carers are not receiving the information and support they are entitled to because not enough is being done to promote awareness of their right to a Carers Assessment.

The Commissioner's report, entitled "Supporting Older Carers," examines the reasons for low uptake of Carers Assessments by older carers in Northern Ireland, and highlights the need for government to do more to ensure their needs are assessed and met to help them in their caring role.

Speaking at the launch of the report in the Antrim Forum, the Commissioner said:

"Northern Ireland is an ageing society and as many older people choose to live in their own homes for longer, the number of older carers is expected to increase. Older carers play a vital role in supporting others to live dignified and fulfilled lives in their own homes, and despite providing around £1.02 billion to the economy in Northern Ireland through caring, many go without much needed support and respite which would help them in their caring role.

"The findings of my report have shown that many older carers do not consider themselves to be carers, and so do not realize that there is support available to help them. Other older carers have told me that they didn't see the value of the Carers Assessment as they did not feel that it would lead to any extra support but saw it as a "paper exercise."

"Health and Social Care Trusts are legally obliged to make sure that carers are aware of their right to a Carers Assessment, however my report shows that 70% of older carers state that they had not been offered an assessment.

"I am calling for the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to put targets in place to increase the number of older carers receiving a Carers Assessment and to ensure that appropriate services are in place to support their needs.

"Older carers cannot be taken for granted; they deserve to be provided with the information, practical, emotional and respite support they need. Increasing uptake of Carers Assessments will help identify what their needs are to help them in their caring role and ensure that appropriate services are in place to meet the needs of today's and tomorrow's older carers."

The Director of Carers NI, Helen Ferguson, welcomed the report:

"Too many older carers struggle for far too long without outside support, and this puts their own health at risk. We really want to see more older carers being actively encouraged to take up Carers Assessments. That way they can be properly involved as expert partners in the delivery of care to their loved ones, and also they get the help they need to protect their own well-being. We welcome this report and its recommendations, which should improve older carers access to the very best of the good practice we know Trusts want to deliver for carers.