The Department of Health has responsibility for the National Carers’ Strategy which sets out the strategic direction for future policies, supports and services provided by Government Departments and agencies for carers. The primary responsibility for providing services such as the Home Support Service (formerly the Home Help Service or Home Care Package Scheme) rests with the Health Service Executive.
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 Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant.
A primary qualifying condition for the Carer’s Allowance payment 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 current 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.
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. As of end of July 2019, there were 82,015 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance. The projected expenditure on Carer's Allowance in 2019 is almost €840 million.
Any further changes to the hours 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.