The Government acknowledges the crucial role that family carers play and is fully committed to supporting carers in that role. This commitment is recognised in both the Programme for Government and the National Carers’ Strategy.
The main income supports to carers provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit and the Carer’s Support Grant. As of end of March 2020 there were 86,286 recipients of Carer's Allowance. The projected expenditure on Carer’s Allowance in 2020 is approximately €919 million. Combined spending on all DEASP payments to carers in 2020 is expected to exceed €1.3 billion.
The means test for Carer’s Allowance is one of the most generous in the social protection system. Currently €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.
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.
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 a universal carer’s payment could cost up to an additional €1.2 billion per annum.
Other available supports to family carers that are not means-tested include:-
- Carer’s Support Grant: The Carer’s Support Grant is paid automatically to people in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit or Domiciliary Care Allowance. Other people who are not in receipt of a social welfare payment but who are providing full time care and attention are also eligible and can apply for a grant. 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.
- Domiciliary Care Allowance: Domiciliary Care Allowance is a monthly payment for a child aged under 16 with a severe disability, who requires ongoing care and attention, substantially over and above the care and attention usually required by a child of the same age. It is not means tested. The Domiciliary Care Allowance rate is €309.50 per month. There is no restriction on the number of children for whom a person may claim Domiciliary Care Allowance. (In other words, a person caring for more than one child who qualifies for Domiciliary Care Allowance may claim the monthly allowance for each child.)
My Department also provides the Exceptional Needs Payment which is a single payment to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income.
I can assure the Deputy that I am very aware of the key role carers play in society and I will continue to keep the range of supports available to carers under review. However, any improvements or additions to these supports can only be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of available financial resources.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.