Traditionally, the majority of the population of Ireland have lived in rural areas outside of large towns and cities. However, this has changed over time, and in 2016 just over 37% of the population lived in an ‘aggregate rural area’ – which is an area of less than 1,500 inhabitants. The percentage of family carers living in these same rural aggregate areas is higher, at almost 42%.
The National Carers Strategy (2012) identifies ‘rural carers’ as a ‘subgroup’ of family carers (along with male carers, young carers and older carers) whose needs must be specifically addressed. Specific challenges face family carers living in rural or sparsely inhabited areas. While there are family carer support organisations across the country, operating and providing supports nationwide, not all of the challenges facing family carers can be addressed by support organisations alone.
This paper outlines some of these key issues, investigates some of the international research and responses to rural family carer challenges, and sets out some additional responses which are necessary in an Irish context.