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Social Welfare Code

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 26 September 2019

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Questions (191)

Willie Penrose


191. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the steps she will take to relax the 15 hour rule, which applies to persons in receipt of carer’s allowance and-or carer’s benefit (details supplied); if same could be increased to 19 hours in line with criteria applicable to such participation in other social welfare schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39153/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Carer's Allowance and Carer’s Benefit are payments for carers who look after certain people in need of full-time care and attention on a full time basis. As of end of August 2019, there were 82,233 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance and 2,967 beneficiaries of Carer's Benefit. The projected combined expenditure on Carer's Allowance and Carer’s Benefit in 2019 is approximately €878 million.

A primary qualifying condition for the Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit payments is that the applicant provides full-time care and attention to a person in need of such care. However, in order to support a carer’s continued attachment to the workforce and broader social inclusion, carers may engage in some limited employment, education or training, while still being regarded as being in a position to provide full-time care. During this time of employment, education or training, adequate provision must be made for the care of the relevant person. Both the full-time care and attention requirement and the 15-hour limitation are contained in the respective legislative provisions of the Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit and Carer’s Support Grant schemes.

As part of Budget 2006, the number of hours per week that carers could engage in employment, education or training outside the home was increased from 10 to 15 hours per week.

The only social welfare scheme with a criteria of 19 hours is the Working Family Payment (WFP). A threshold of 19 hours (or 38 hours per fortnight) is applied as a minimum for the Working Family Payment. It should be noted that, for WFP purposes, any combination of hours that reaches 38 hours each fortnight is acceptable. A person can combine their weekly hours with their spouse, civil partner or cohabitant's hours to meet the condition. Therefore a carer’s working hours can be taken into account for WFP purposes.

In assessing weekly family income for Working Family Payment (WFP) purposes, most weekly social welfare payments are assessed. Budget 2012 contained a measure which provided for the assessment of Carer’s Benefit and Carer’s Allowance payments in determining entitlement to WFP. This measure brought the treatment of these two payments for WFP purposes into line with the treatment of all other primary social welfare payments. It also provided for a more consistent approach to the concurrent payment of WFP with other social welfare payments. Moreover, while this measure reduced a person’s secondary payment (WFP) it did so without affecting their primary payment, in this case Carer’s Benefit and Carer’s Allowance, therefore targeting available resources at those in most need.

Any further changes to this condition would need to be considered in a budgetary context and would also need to maintain a reasonable balance between the requirement to provide full-time care for the care recipient and the needs of the carer.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.