The Government acknowledges the important role that family carers play and is fully committed to supporting carers in that role through a range of supports and services. This commitment is recognised in both the Programme for Government and the National Carers’ Strategy. The main income supports provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit and the Carer’s Support Grant.
Carer's Benefit is a payment made to insured people who leave the workforce to care for a person or persons in need of full-time care and attention. It is payable for a maximum period of 104 weeks in respect of each person receiving care. It can be taken in one single period or in separate periods as long as the combined total does not exceed 104 weeks for each care recipient.
Being a full-time carer means that the carer must be living with or in a position to provide full-time care and attention to a person in need of care who is not living in an institution. However, Carer’s Benefit can continue to be paid on a short-term basis and the carer continues to be regarded as providing full-time care and attention, if they or the person being cared for is having medical or other treatment in a hospital or other institution for a period not longer than 13 weeks. This conditionality is set out in the respective legislative provisions governing the Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and Carer’s Support Grant schemes.
The 13 week provision is to ensure that the carer can continue to be paid when they themselves require medical treatment that requires them to spend some time in hospital, or when the person they are caring for requires medical care or respite on a short-term basis.
The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme is considered the "safety net" within the overall social welfare system in that it provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. Under the SWA scheme, my Department may award a supplement to assist with ongoing or recurring costs that cannot be met from the a person's own resources and which are deemed to be necessary. In addition, the Department can make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. Payments are made at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case. Any person who consider they may have an entitlement under the SWA scheme should contact the Department's Community Welfare Service at their local INTREO centre.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.