Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (319)

Terence Flanagan


319. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the respite care grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9564/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I am aware that the Government’s decision to reduce the respite care grant has been difficult for carers to accept. I am not in a position to reverse this decision. While the Comprehensive Expenditure Review, 2012 to 2014, published in December 2011, provided for a reduction of a further €540 million in expenditure by my Department in 2013, the Government was able to reduce the net savings required for this year to €390 million. This was €150 million less than originally indicated. This enabled the Government to ensure, for the second year in a row, that there was no reduction in primary weekly rates of payment.

In 2013, the Department will spend almost €20.3 billion on the wide range of schemes and services it operates. Carers receive significant income supports from the Department, among the highest rates of income support in Europe. Carers receive additional support in the form of free travel and household benefits (for those who live with the person for whom they care), and the annual respite care grant in respect of each person for whom they care. Such an annual payment, in a single lump sum with no requirement to satisfy a means test, is not available for any other group nor is there an equivalent payment for carers in any other country in Europe. If a person is getting certain qualifying social welfare payments and also providing full time care and attention to another person, they can keep their main social welfare payment and get the half-rate carer's allowance as well. They can also receive an extra half-rate carer’s allowance if they care for more than one person.

The current rate of the respite care grant (€1,375) remains significantly higher, and still more than double what it was in 2002 (€635). Expenditure on the grant has increased by 290% since 2005 from €34.3 million to €135 million in 2012.

In relation to the next budget, the Deputy will be aware that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's Expenditure Report 2013 published by Government last December provides for additional new expenditure reduction measures of €440 million to be achieved in 2014 in the Department of Social Protection budget. Reducing overall expenditure in 2014 in line with this target will be very challenging. No decisions have been made at this stage as to how these targets will be met. The Government will consider this having regard to all of its commitments.