“I have cared for my daughter for 40 years, but I am not entitled to a state pension – my contribution is classified as zero.”

A 76-year-old woman, who worked as a full-time carer for her daughter for 40 years, said she felt her contribution to society was considered “zero” because she was not entitled to a pension.

Heila Ward from Monaghan has spent most of her life looking after her daughter Romy who was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

Ms Ward said she believes the state does not recognize or value the work of carers like her as it does not allow them to enjoy a pension after a lifetime of caring.

“I’m not the only one – the country is full of people like me,” said Ms Ward. “It’s the whole attitude of caring about people — it’s not appreciated.”

Three months ago, Ms Ward’s daughter Romy, 40, moved into full-time foster care as her aging parents found it more difficult to care for her around the clock. Ms Ward received care allowance payment for her last caregiver last week.

Mrs Ward, who married her husband Brían in 1977, worked as a teacher in England for 10 years.

The couple moved back to Ireland and had three children together “in short succession”. After Romy, her youngest, was born with a severe physical disability, Ms Ward decided to look after her full-time rather than return to work.

As Mrs Ward did not pay PRSI she is not entitled to a contributory pension. Her husband also gave up work at the age of 46 to take care of Romy. However, as he is on a teacher’s pension, Ms Ward is above the threshold for a non-contributory pension.

“After 40 years you suddenly have nothing left,” she said.

She added that the work she’s done over the past four decades has been “extremely difficult.”

“I’ve always done it with a happy heart. I enjoyed taking care of Romy, but it was exhausting. Between the two of us, it’s taken up all of our time for the past 40 years. But we are a good team, we work together.”

Ms Ward said if she had decided to place Romy in a home as a child it would have cost the State a “huge amount” of money. But she says she has no regrets taking care of her daughter.

As early as 1997, when Romy was only 15 years old, we began to worry about what would happen when we got old

That Irish Independent has seen the correspondence Ms Ward sent to Heather Humphreys, her local TD and the Secretary of State for Social Welfare arguing that she should be entitled to a pension for her work as a carer.

“My argument with the Minister is and has been that my 40 years of nursing work is not considered ‘real’ or ‘productive’ work; In other words, my contribution to Irish life, society and the economy will be assessed as zero,” she said.

Romy moved into a full-time foster care facility in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, built only as a result of a 25-year campaign led by her parents.

Mr Ward said he and his wife had worried about Romy’s future care since they were young, prompting them to lobby the Health Department to build the care facility. Over the past 10 years, the couple had begun to feel the effects of 24-hour care.

“Even back in 1997, when Romy was only 15, we began to worry about what would happen when we got old or if one of us had an accident, got hurt or died. So we started laying the groundwork for Romy’s future,” Mr Ward said.

“Sheila is 76 and I’m 75 and to tell the truth we’re pretty much exhausted. We have no regrets at all, but the wear and tear of 40 years is taking its toll.”

The couple are only now learning to relax and slow down, but Mr Ward said his wife is trying to make the case for herself and other full-time carers.

“Sheila is very saddened that the state is now saying, ‘Well you’re a great woman, thank you very much, but we don’t take any credit for the work you’ve done in order to give you a right to a pension. ‘ So that’s really what it’s about.”

In a statement, the Department for Social Welfare said that while it did not comment on individual cases, “it should be stressed that both the Government and the Minister strongly recognize the important role that carers play in society”.

The ministry said the issue of carer’s pensions had been examined by the Pensions Commission and that Ms Humphreys “strongly believes that the Government’s response to the Commission should address the issue of improved pension provision for long-term carers”.

It added: “It intends to submit proposals to the Government on the Pensions Commission’s report shortly.”

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/i-cared-for-my-daughter-for-40-years-but-i-am-not-entitled-to-a-state-pension-my-contribution-is-classed-as-zero-41938101.html “I have cared for my daughter for 40 years, but I am not entitled to a state pension – my contribution is classified as zero.”

Fry Electronics Team

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