SDLP Strangford Assembly candidate Conor Houston has called for a Carers Champion to be established for Northern Ireland.
Mr Houston said that there were many people working in the caring profession and caring for loved ones, and they lack a dedicated representative to speak up on their behalf.
He proposed the champion could perform a similar role to the Mental Health Champion, who advocates for mental health at both a public and governmental level.
Mr Houston said:
“Acting as a carer can be a thankless job. Whether working in the sector or looking after a loved one, it involves long hours, low pay and little recognition. It can be lonely work, but it is also extremely rewarding and adds so much to the lives of those in need of care. The people who do it professionally provide a vital public service, while others do it out of dedication to support friends and family with additional needs.
“With our aging population it’s unlikely that any family across the North will not have dealt with a carer at some point and seen the important work they do. I’ve been repeatedly struck by their dedication and selflessness, because of their efforts people are able to remain living at home for longer and to maintain their self-respect and dignity no matter their age or medical needs.
“As part of my campaign I have been meeting with local groups and organisations and have been told time and time again that carers feel there is nobody who speaks or advocates on their behalf. While there are a number of support groups out there, I believe carers could benefit from the appointment of someone who can articulate the challenges they face and push for the help and reform needed in the sector.
“We have seen the success of our Mental Health Champion Siobhán O’Neill and I believe we should be looking to create a similar role for our caring community. They are often too busy looking after the vulnerable to campaign on their own behalf. I will be working with my SDLP colleagues on this proposal and I hope it will be given serious consideration to provide a voice to the voiceless and give carers the support needed to continue their vital work.”