Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (99)

Joe Higgins


96 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the findings of the recent UK census which shows that the Irish in Britain are more likely to be living in residential care than any other group, and that they are the group most likely to be providing over 50 hours per week of unpaid care to relatives, friends and neighbours. [2584/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The census of England and Wales was conducted in April 2001. It showed that 1% of the Irish in Britain were resident in hospitals or other care establishments. It also showed that the Irish have older age structures than other ethnic groups, with one in four Irish people in Britain aged 65 and over. As a result, they are more likely to need care. This is particularly true as the Irish group that went to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s grows older.

The 2001 census was the first in which a question about carers was included. It found that there are 5.2 million people providing unpaid care in England and Wales, that is, one in ten of the population. Carers were defined in the census as people looking after or giving help or support to family members, friends, neighbours or others because of long-term physical or mental ill health or disability or problems related to old age.

The responses showed that 10% of each of the groups categorised in the census as "White British", "White Irish" and "Indian" were providing unpaid care. The "White Irish" group had, by a small margin, 2.5%, the highest rate of providing over 50 hours a week of care. This reflects the older age structure of the Irish community in Britain which makes them more likely to provide care.

The Irish Government, through the Díon committee, provides significant levels of support to the older Irish in Britain. In 2003, €873,000 was spent on projects for the elderly and €119,000 on projects for returning emigrants. This represents 43% of the Díon fund in 2003. Several of these projects involve social activities which have added health benefits, helping older people to continue to live independently for longer. In addition, older Irish people have access to welfare organisations assisted by the Díon fund which provide advice on welfare and health benefits available to them.