The Government fully recognises that the domiciliary care allowance (DCA) scheme represents a very important support to parents and guardians who live with, and care for, children with a disability. Likewise, the disability allowance (DA) represents an important income support to people who are unfit for work.
DCA is now in payment in respect of 26,000 children, an increase of over 3,000 since the Department took over responsibility for the scheme from the HSE in April 2009. Spending on the scheme and the respite care grant, which is automatically paid to all recipients, has increased from €138 million to €145 million between 2010 and 2012. In 2012, DA was in payment in respect of 120,000 customers at a cost of €1.09 billion.
The Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare was established in line with commitments contained in the Programme for Government, with the aim of harnessing expert opinion and experience to examine a number of specific issues relating to the tax and social welfare systems. Following Budget 2012, I requested the Advisory Group to examine and report on the policy objectives underpinning the budgetary proposals relating to disability allowance (DA) and domiciliary care allowance (DCA), which included a measure to increase the minimum age for new DA claimants from 16 to 18 years of age with a corresponding extension in the age of entitlement for DCA from 16 to 18 years of age. The Group’s report on this issue was published on 10 April 2013.
At the same time, the report of the Review Group on the operation of the DCA scheme was published. Both of these reports make a number of policy recommendations, which make a valuable contribution to the policy debate in relation to young people with disabilities. My colleagues in Government and I will consider these findings, taking into account future developments in terms of the budgetary and fiscal situation as well as other work underway.
The administrative recommendations made in the report of the Review Group on the operation of the DCA scheme will result in an improvement in the level of service provided to our customers and will assist in ensuring that those people who meet the qualifying conditions for the payment receive it in a timely manner. It is my intention that the administrative improvements will be implemented quickly.