I propose to take Questions Nos. 825 and 827 together.
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. Combined spending on these 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.
It has not been possible to provide all of the €50 incremental estimates as requested within the time-frame allowed for response to this PQ. Using the ESRI SWITCH microsimulation model it has been estimated that the cost of increasing the current disregard for a couple of €665 by €50 to €715 is €15.08 million. However, allowing for income tax offsets, net expenditure for this increase is estimated to be around €11.59 million per year.
The cost of increasing the couple disregard from €665 to €950 was also examined using the ESRI SWITCH model and estimated at total cost of €90.23 million per year. Allowing for income tax offsets, net expenditure for this increase is estimated to be around €67.97 million per year.
The remaining estimates requested will be supplied to the Deputy shortly.
Changes to schemes are considered in an overall budgetary and policy context and from an evidence based perspective. Some 86% of the current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no means or means of less than €7.60 per week and would not benefit by an increase in the disregard.
Carers who would benefit from an increased disregard would be in higher income households. Given the need to target available resources fairly and equitably to those in most need, I have no plans to change the means conditions for Carer's Allowance at this juncture. While I will continue to seek to improve the supports available for carers, any changes must be considered in an overall budgetary context.
I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.