Carer's Allowance (CA) is a means tested payment, made to people who are providing full-time care and attention to elderly people or to people with disabilities and whose income falls below certain limits. The principal conditions for receipt of the allowance are that full time care and attention is required and being provided and that the means test which applies is satisfied.
The conditions attached to payment of CA are consistent with the overall conditions that apply to social assistance payments generally. This system of social assistance supports provides payments based on an income need with the means test playing the critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency - be that illness/disability, unemployment or caring.
The means test for Carer's Allowance is one of the most generous in the social protection system in that €332.50 of gross weekly income is disregarded in the calculation of means for a single person; the equivalent for someone who is married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting is €665 of combined gross weekly income. A married couple with 2 children could have weekly earnings of €734 net of PRSI, superannuation and union subscription costs and still qualify for the full rate of Carer's Allowance. This is equivalent to over €38,000 per annum.
At the end of December 2018, there were 79,914 people in receipt of CA. The projected expenditure on CA in 2019 is almost €840 million.
It is not possible to make a robust estimate of the costs requested on the level of additional programme costs using available administrative data, particularly as such a change would be highly sensitive to the income distribution in households at the time of implementation. However, analysis based on the SWITCH model(Simulating Welfare and Income Tax Changes) predicted an estimated cost in the region of €73million, which, with income tax and Working Family Payment offsets, net expenditure is estimated at €55 million. Any changes to qualifying criteria would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.