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 income supports include the Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Carer’s Support Grant and the Domiciliary Care Allowance. Spending on these payments in 2019 is expected to exceed €1.2 billion.
The Carer’s Allowance is the main scheme by which the Department provides income support to carers in the community. Carer’s Allowance is a means tested social assistance payment awarded to those carers who are caring for certain people who require full-time care and attention.
The primary objective of the payment is to provide an income support to carers whose earning capacity is substantially reduced as a consequence of their caring responsibilities and in so doing to support the ongoing care of the person in respect of whom care is being provided. In doing this it also contributes to recognising the valuable role of carers and helping to maintain people with caring needs in their own homes / communities.
The means test for Carer's Allowance is the most generous within the social welfare 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. At the end of December 2018, there were 79,914 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance. The projected expenditure on Carer's Allowance in 2019 is almost €840 million.
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 by automatically granting the allowance to all carers by removing the means test, such a universal carer’s payment could cost up to an additional €1.2 billion per annum.
My Department offers further supports to carers which are not means tested:-
- Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) is a monthly payment for a child, aged under 16 with a severe disability who requires ongoing (continual or continuous) care and attention, substantially over and above the care and attention usually required (in excess of that required) by a child of the same age. The child is likely to require full-time care and attention for at least 12 months. There are no PRSI conditions and it is not means tested. The Domiciliary Care Allowance rate is €309.50 per month.
- The Carer’s Support Grant is an annual payment of €1,700 a year for each care recipient paid in a single lump sum with no requirement to satisfy a means test.
Any changes to the eligibility for Carer's Allowance would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context. I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.