Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Questions (654)

Peter Burke

Question:

654. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing the income disregard for carer’s benefit from €332.50 for a single person and €665 for a married couple to €450 and €900 per week, respectively. [27841/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Carer's Benefit is a payment made to insured people who leave the workforce to care for someone in need of full-time care and attention. A person may be eligible for Carer's Benefit if they have enough PRSI contributions. This and other care-related supports, such as the Carer’s Allowance payment and the Carer’s Support Grant, provide recognition and support for the valuable role of carers.

Carer’s Benefit is payable for a maximum period of 104 weeks for each person being cared for. It can be taken in one block or in separate periods as long as the combined total does not exceed 104 weeks. The current weekly rate is €220.00. Where a person is caring for two or more care recipients, the rate of payment is increased by 50%.

At the end of May 2019, there were 2,724 carers in receipt of Carer’s Benefit. An Increase for a Qualified Child was being made in respect of 824 children, 302 of whom are aged 12 years or more. Estimated expenditure on Carer’s Benefit in 2019 is €37.83m

A person in receipt of Carer's Benefit may not take part in employment, self-employment, training or education courses outside the home for more than 15 hours a week. The maximum amount a person can earn is €332.50 per week. (€332.50 is the net income after deducting income tax, Universal Social Charge, PRSI, superannuation (pension payments), pension levy, union dues, subscriptions to Friendly Societies and any health insurance contract premium from total wages.)

With regard to Carer's Benefit the means/income of a spouse, civil partner or co-habitant of a carer would only be taken into account if claiming an increase for a child dependant (IQC). Therefore it is not possible to estimate the cost of increasing the income disregard for Carer’s Benefit from €332.50 for a single person and €665 for a married couple to €450 and €900 per week respectively.

Carer's Allowance 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 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.

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.

As of end of May 2019, there were 81,131 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance. The projected expenditure on Carer's Allowance in 2019 is almost €840 million.

With regard to Carer's Allowance, 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 €73 million, which, when income tax and Working Family Payment offsets are taken into account, produces an estimated net expenditure of €55 million.

Any changes to qualifying criteria for these schemes, including income disregards, would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.