There are now more unpaid carers in Northern Ireland than before the Covid-19 pandemic began.
That is according to new research carried out by YouGov as part of Carers Week 2022.
Data shows that 20% of adults here now support a relative close friend or neighbour because of chronic illness, including mental ill-health, dementia, disability, or older age.
Carers NI has now called on Stormont to intervene and provide more support for unpaid carers through a functioning executive and for MLAs to create a 12-month targeted plan.
The charity says the intensity of care now provided to those in need has grown, with several factors including services remaining closed and vulnerable people continuing to shield, still having an impact.
Craig Harrison, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Carers Northern Ireland, said, "While life has largely returned to normal for most of the local population, this isn't the reality for many of our unpaid carers.
"They continue to go without full access to many of the support services that were closed or reduced during the pandemic, and as our research shows, this is pushing many to breaking point with their physical and mental health.
"The simple reality is that Northern Ireland's health and social care system would collapse without unpaid carers. They have provided an even larger amount of care during the pandemic and now is the time to start repaying that by giving them the support they've been crying out for.
"We want to see the Executive established as soon as possible so that Ministers can begin introducing the policy change that carers need, starting with the return of day services and measures to protect carers from the brutal impact of the cost of living crisis."
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