Moira Skelly, a family carer who is the first to sign up to the new scheme, pictured at Government Buildings to launch the initiative.

Family Carers Ireland (FCI), in partnership with An Garda Síochána, the National Ambulance Service Community First Responder Schemes, the Irish Red Cross and the Order of Malta has developed a new Emergency Card Scheme for family carers.

When a family carer has an unplanned hospital admission there is a risk that the person who needs their care and support could be left at home alone and uncared for. The Emergency Card Scheme is intended to give peace of mind to family carers as well as ensuring that the person they care for remains safe in such emergencies.

Four steps of the new scheme:

Step 1: The Family Carer completes the FCI Emergency Care Plan with or for their loved one outlining their care needs, likes, dislikes, medication requirements etc.

Step 2: The Family Carer nominates two people who will step into their caring role in the event of an emergency and provide FCI with these details as part of their plan.

Step 3: The completed Emergency Care Plan is sent to FCI and the family carer receives their emergency card, which includes a freephone emergency helpline number.

Step 4: In an emergency, and where a person’s named contacts are unavailable, FCI will determine the person’s needs and mobile either a red or green response.

*A red response is for those who need a high level of support, where a Garda will visit the person and decide if he/she requires transportation to the emergency department as a place of safety. **A green response will include contacting a pair of volunteers from the National Ambulance Service Community First Responder (CFR) Schemes, the Irish Red Cross or the Order of Malta to sit with and support the person until a home care package can be organised. During this period FCI may also provide up to 72 hours of in-home emergency support where appropriate.

With over 355,000 family carers in Ireland, Family Carers Ireland noted: “Family carers make extraordinary sacrifices and work extremely hard, sometimes 24/7 to provide care for children and adults with intellectual or physical disability, frail older people, people with palliative care needs or those living with mental health, chronic illness or addiction issues. Their unpaid work saves the State a staggering €10bn each year.”