It’s time to care for the family carers

Social enterprise Jobs for Family Carers is focused on ensuring those who provide an invaluable service to society can work and earn too.

Fiona O’Neill’s Jobs for Family Carers is out to fix the problem of family carers’ under-representation within the workforce.

“A family carer is an individual who cares for a member of their family due to an illness, disability or the inability to complete some everyday tasks on their own. 80,000 out of the 390,000 family carers in this country are in receipt of a social protection payment known as Carers Allowance. A condition of this allowance means you cannot work more than 18.5 hours per week. I believe many employers are unaware of the demand for contracts of this size.”

“My motivation comes from knowing that many family carers feel invisible within their role. This initiative gives them a voice and a place and opportunities that they might not have known about previously”

O’Neill makes a valid point. Ireland’s health and social care system depends on family carers. But despite their valuable contribution to our society, she says the health of family carers has decreased in the last ten years resulting in 48pc of family carers reporting poor mental health and managing the anxiety of falling into a poverty trap .

“Employment has been proven to increase self-esteem and reduce psychological distress.

“I want to reach out to employers to advocate that they consider contracts of 18.5 hours to allow family carers to secure employment, empower Family Carers to recognise their skills and support them on their journey into the workforce.”

That caring commitment

O’Neill said that the ultimate goal is to have family carers and their caring commitments recognised and supported by Employers and the government in Ireland. 

“This will be in terms of hours flexibility, financially supporting families for home care, remote working/working from home employment opportunities for Family Carers and support for both the Family Carer and the Employer when on the recruitment journey.”

O’Neill explained how Jobs for Family Carers is currently providing a number of services:

Employment: “The Jobs for Family Carers facebook page has become Ireland’s only dedicated location for family carers across Ireland to source part time jobs that meet their Carers Allowance criteria.”

Advocacy: “I contact employers directly who have part time vacancies that exceed the hours that a Family Carer can work under the Carers Allowance guidelines. To date, 80pc of employers approached have agreed to reduce the hours of the role to 18.5 hours per week if a family carer with the skills they require for the role is successful in the interview.”

Support: “Jobs for Family Carers provides a safe private space of support for family carers through a Facebook networking group. Over 2,000 Irish family carers use the group to network and ask questions about returning to work. They share information about their challenges and Family Carers already in the workforce answer their questions and give advice.”

Empowerment: “Jobs for Family Carers has started a series of online talks open to family carers. The speakers at these events are family carers who have returned to work around their caring duties. Empowerment is about family carers empowering family carers.”

Necessity is the mother of invention

O’Neill knows what she is talking about because she herself is a family carer.

“If you have an idea that you know Ireland or the world needs, just do it!”

“I am proud to say that I am a family carer. I am in receipt of Carers Allowance because my son lives with arthritis, scoliosis and sight loss. I needed to find employment to ensure a good quality of life for myself and my two children. The level of care he requires means that even if I wanted to, I cannot work full time. I decided I wanted to help people in a similar situation to myself and hence Jobs for Family Carers was born.

“My motivation comes from knowing that many family carers feel invisible within their role. This initiative gives them a voice and a place and opportunities that they might not have known about previously. The feeling that a mother has when she realises she can have a career and care for her family too is a fantastic incentive for me to succeed in tackling this social issue.

O’Neill believes the social entrepreneurship model in Ireland is gaining momentum. “Groups such as Social Impact Ireland have free incubator programmes which help to guide a social entrepreneur through their idea, structure the idea and help bring it to fruition. Incubator programmes are fantastic to network and learn from other entrepreneurs who are at different stages of their business. Some are start-ups and some are years into their business and yet everyone learns from each other.”

Careers for carers

To date over 170 companies have been contacted to educate them about Family Carers and their working hour limitations as defined by the Carer Allowance criteria. When asked if they can be flexible around a current part time contract vacancy, 80pc of them have said yes.

“Jobs for Family Carers has created Ireland’s only online space for family carers only to view less than 18.5 hour job vacancies from around Ireland. There are approximately 20 top posting job sites in Ireland. Time is valuable to family carers when they are committed to their caring duties and often the time consuming task of job hunting causes them to give up. Right now, Jobs for Family Carers filters these sites for Carer Allowance appropriate jobs and centralises them in one location for family carers.”

O’Neill said she had to overcome a number of hurdles to get Jobs for Family Carers off the ground.

“For example, my lack of knowledge in the recruitment sector and HR procedures within companies was an obstacle I held. Also, in order to create a database of Family Carers I would need to create a customer relationship management system. This system would need funds to create and training to be put into operation. Through Social Enterprise Incubator Programmes and networking at Social Enterprise online events (The Irish Social Enterprise Network hosts monthly online global networking events) I made contact with the right people to guide me through these challenges. Learning from others who have already completed the business start-up stage is invaluable. They’ve made the mistakes so that you don’t have to.”

O’Neill cited the motto of “If you want something done, do it yourself” as the drive behind a social entrepreneur’s want for change. 

“It may be societal or environmental change but it’s usually through a person’s drive to see that change happen that their social entrepreneurial streak is born and in turn their enterprise is created. If you have an idea that you know Ireland or the world needs, just do it!”

By John Kennedy (

Published: 24 May 2021