The Government acknowledges the important role that family carers play and is fully committed to supporting carers in that role. This commitment is recognised in both the Programme for a Partnership Government and the National Carers’ Strategy.
My Department provides a range of supports to those who are caring for family members, friends or neighbours. These measures aim to recognise the needs of carers through the provision of appropriate income supports, to enable carers to remain in touch with the labour market to the greatest extent possible and to empower carers to participate fully in economic and social life.
These income supports include the following:
- Carer’s Allowance
- Carer’s Benefit
- Carer’s Support Grant
- Domiciliary Care Allowance
Carers may also (subject to certain conditions) qualify for the Household Benefits Package and a Free Travel Pass.
Spending on these payments in 2019 is expected to exceed €1.2 billion.
Carer's Allowance is a means-tested payment for carers who look after certain people in need of full-time care and attention on a full time basis. The means test for Carer's Allowance is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse’s earnings. Since April 2008, the income disregard has been €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple. This means that a couple with two children can earn in the region of €35,400 and qualify for the maximum rate of Carer's Allowance. A half-rate carer's allowance is also payable with other welfare payments e.g. pensions and disability payments.
The conditions attached to payments of Carer’s Allowance 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. Carer's Allowance acts as an income support for those who cannot earn an income in the open labour market due to their caring responsibilities. The continued application of the means test not only ensures that the recipient has a verifiable income need but that resources are targeted to those with greatest need.
Based on the number of carers identified as part of Census 2016, it is estimated that a universal carer’s payment could cost up to €1.2 billion per annum.
I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.