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 Domiciliary Care Allowance. Spending on these payments in 2019 is expected to exceed €1.2 billion.
At the end of December 2018, there were 35,542 people in receipt of a half-rate Carer’s Allowance. This is an increase of almost 43% since 2013.
There are a number of basic principles which underpin the Irish social insurance system, one of which is the general principle of one person, one payment, which applies across the social welfare system. People qualifying for two social welfare payments receive the higher payment for which they are eligible.
There are a limited number of exceptions in the social insurance system to the general principle of one person, one payment. In 2007 a new half-rate Carer’s Allowance was introduced for certain people with another social welfare entitlement. This had been a particular concern to people in receipt of a social welfare payment when they became carers. The issue was highlighted by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs in its Report on the Positions of Full-time Carers (2003). In order to address these concerns, reforms in this area were provided for in Budget 2007. Under the new arrangements, people in receipt of certain social welfare payments other than Carer’s Allowance or Benefit who are providing full-time care and attention can retain their main payment and receive another payment, depending on their means, the maximum of which is equivalent to a half-rate Carer’s Allowance. Therefore a person who may have an underlying entitlement to another social welfare payment, such as State-Pension (contributory), can transfer to that payment and continue to receive up to a half-rate Carer’s Allowance. These arrangements apply to almost all weekly social welfare payments and to people in receipt of qualified adult allowances. Recipients of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Benefit are not eligible given the job seeking nature of these payments.
To pay full-rate Carer's Allowance along with another social welfare payment, as proposed - would involve significant expenditure and could only be considered in an overall Budgetary context.
I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.