Research results show need to increase caring supports for family carers

Research results show need to increase caring supports for family carers

In 2022, South East Technological University (SETU) became the first Higher Education Institution (HEI) in Ireland to launch a Caring Employers Programme in collaboration with national charity, Family Carers Ireland (FCI). The programme is open to all SETU employees and aims to provide a suite of practical supports for employees balancing work with a caring role in their lives.

A key component of the programme is its research phase which aims to determine the existing needs of caring employees within the SETU community. This organisation-wide survey showed that 60% of employees identified as family carers. Of this cohort, the average period of time as carers is 7.5 years (actual time periods range from one month to 30 years). Caring employees spend an average of 29 hours per week on caring duties 39% of respondents felt their role was manageable.

Despite this, 69% of carers were not aware of the range of supports available to them from government, namely via the Carer’s Act 2021. The act provides for the entitlement of an employee to avail of unpaid leave from his/her employment to enable him/her to personally provide full-time care and attention to a person who needs such care. The minimum statutory entitlement is 13 weeks, and the maximum is 104 weeks in respect of anyone care recipient. With 45% of research participants anticipating that they will enter a caring role within the next five years, it is key for SETU’s Caring Employer’s Programme to create awareness and a network of support to this caring group that will provide information on issues such as a carer’s rights and entitlements; advice on taking carer’s leave; grants and tax deductions.            

Family Carers Ireland is the national charity supporting the 500,000+ family carers across the country who care for loved ones such as children or adults with additional needs, physical or intellectual disabilities, frail older people, those with palliative care needs or those living with chronic illnesses, mental health challenges or addiction.

The Caring Employers Programme at SETU has come about as a result of the ongoing collaborative project between SETU Lifelong Learning and FCI called “Supporting Family Carers Across Ireland”. This three-year project, aims to engage family carers across Ireland in a transformative and holistic educational experience with SETU. It is about supporting and promoting the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of family carers and those for whom they care, while recognising the enormous contribution family carers make to our society.

The project began when SETU Lifelong Learning was awarded €1 million in funding by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in recognition of its exemplary contributions to society. Family Carers Ireland will provide information sessions to caring employees on the identified topics in response to the needs of the caring community at the university.

For more information on the programme, contact Project Coordinator, Nicola McEntee, at