I thank the Deputy. Carer's benefit is a payment of up to two years' duration made to people who may be required to leave the workforce or reduce their working hours to care for a person in need of full-time care. Under the provisions of the legislation, to be eligible to claim carer's benefit, a claimant must have paid PRSI contributions in classes A, B, C, D, E or H. Self-employed workers who pay social insurance contributions at the class S rate of 4% are not eligible for carer's benefit.
For a first claim, the carer must have 156 PRSI contributions paid since entry into insurance and either 39 contributions paid in the relevant tax year; 39 contributions paid in the 12 months immediately before the commencement of the carer's benefit; or 26 contributions paid in the relevant tax year and 26 contributions paid in the previous relevant tax year.
Entitlement to social insurance benefits is generally dependent on the applicant's social insurance contribution record, the class of social insurance paid and other qualification criteria relevant to the schemes in question. This is to reflect the fact that the payment is made to an individual to address a contingency that he or she is experiencing.
A claim cannot be made for carer's benefit based on the contributions paid by another person, such as a spouse or partner. Where a person does not have the necessary social insurance record, he or she can claim for carer's allowance. The first €332.20 of weekly income for a single person, or €665 for a couple, is disregarded in the means test.
Any proposal to amend social insurance entitlements would have to be considered in a budgetary context, taking account of the current economic circumstances and the sustainability of the Social Insurance Fund. I hope my reply has clarified the issue.