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Respite Care Grant Administration

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 29 January 2013

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Ceisteanna (128, 398)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

128. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will outline her plans for the future of the respite care grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4081/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Dara Murphy

Ceist:

398. Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if savings are found within her budget during 2013, is it envisaged that the cut to the respite care grant will be restored; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3993/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (18 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 398 together.

Expenditure on carers has increased significantly in recent years. In 2013 it is estimated to be €776 million, compared with an estimated outturn of €771 million in 2012. The expenditure on carers in 2012 included €509 million on carer’s allowance, €24 million on carer’s benefit, €135 million on the respite care grant and €103 million on domiciliary care allowance. This represents an increase of almost €20 million on expenditure in 2011. Even with the reduction in the respite care grant, expenditure on carers in 2013 will be higher than in 2012.

The respite care grant which is not means tested is paid to approximately 70,000 people each year, with approximately 4,000 receiving more than one grant as they care for more than one person. There are almost 52,000 people in receipt of carer’s allowance. Of these, over 23,000 are receiving half-rate carer’s allowance in addition to another social welfare payment at an annual cost of some €90 million. There are over 1,600 people in receipt of carer’s benefit. The numbers in receipt of a carer’s allowance payment from the Department have increased by more than 150% in the past ten years from 20,000 in 2001 to 52,000 in 2012, while expenditure on the scheme has increased by almost 220% in the same period.

I am acutely aware that the reduction in the respite care grant is difficult for carers. However, in order to protect the core weekly payments which people receive, including disability payments, pensions and carer’s allowance, the Government had to look very carefully at other additional payments, including the respite care grant. Such an annual payment, in a single lump sum with no requirement to satisfy a means test, is not available for any other group, nor is there an equivalent payment for carers in any other country in Europe. I have no plans to amend the respite care grant at this time.

As Deputies know, the income disregard and means test for carers are the most generous within the social welfare system. A couple aged under 66 years with two children, earning a joint annual income of up to €35,400, can qualify for the maximum carer’s allowance payment, while a couple earning just under €60,000 will still qualify for the minimum rate and may also be eligible for the household benefits scheme.

I refer to Question No. 398.

One minute is allowed per question and reply. The rules have changed.

I understood the minute rule applied to general questions. Deputy Dara Murphy and I asked the Minister whether she envisaged this cut being reversed. Although there was no direct answer, I take it from what the Minister stated that the answer is "No". She gave an expenditure figure of €776 million for carers. Will she agree that the cost of care provided on a voluntary basis, at some 900,000 hours, if costed, would amount to €77 million per week, which is effectively a contribution of some €2.5 billion to the Exchequer? In other words, we are getting back from carers almost four times what we are giving to them. In view of this and the work they are doing - many carers testified in a recent survey that their own physical health had been affected - and given that the budget deficit figures came in beneath target, will the Minister reconsider the decision to impose the cut in June?

Like the Deputy, I have immense personal knowledge of the work carers do. What is important for carers is their weekly income. In government the Deputy's party cut the weekly income of carers by €16.30 a week.

That cut was reversed.

From speaking to carers, we know that such a reduction affects them most.

Why then did the Minister axe the grant?

The work carers do is incredibly valuable-----

-----for the people for whom they care, particularly within a family. I agree that many carers provide an extraordinary level of care and in the process suffer from considerable exhaustion. In the case of the respite care grant, the cut reduced the payment to above 2006 levels. Given the economic pressures on the country, as bequeathed by the Deputy's party-----

Will the Minister reverse the cut?

-----he must admit that in 2013 there will be an increase in overall spending on carers-----

Waffle. Deputy Colm Keaveney, the Minister's party chairman, voted against this measure.

-----which is a mark of the consideration, respect and admiration the Government has for the work they do.

Will there be further cuts?

We are determined to continue to support carers and not to do what Fianna Fáil did and reduce their weekly payment by €16.30.

Will there be further cuts? I take it the answer is "No".

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