Carer's Allowance (CA) is a means tested payment, made to people who are providing full-time care and attention to elderly people or to people with disabilities and whose income falls below certain limits. The principal conditions for receipt of the allowance are that full time care and attention is required and being provided and that the means test which applies is satisfied.
It is important to note that my Department continually reviews its schemes and consults the sector. Consultation is undertaken through, for example, the Annual Carers Forum organised by the department each year (the most recent of which was held on 21 May and was attended by over 70 participants who were individual carers or representatives of carers organisations) and through the department's Pre-Budget Forum, held each year as part of the budgetary process.
The full-time care and attention condition is moderated by legislation allowing the carer to work or engage in training outside the home for an aggregate total of 15 hours per week. Any further changes to this condition would need to be considered in a budgetary context and would also need to maintain a reasonable balance between the requirement to provide full-time care for the care recipient and the needs of the carer.
The means test for Carer's Allowance is one of the most generous in the social protection system in that €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. A married couple with 2 children could have weekly earnings of €734 net of PRSI, superannuation and union subscription costs and still qualify for the full rate of Carer's Allowance. This is equivalent to over €38,000 per annum.
At the end of December 2018, there were 79,914 people in receipt of CA. The projected expenditure on CA in 2019 is approximately €840 million. Combined spending on all my Department’s payments to carers in 2019 is expected to exceed €1.2 billion.
Finally, there are currently two reviews relating to Carers Allowance being undertaken. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are conducting a spending review of Carer’s Supports (including Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit and Carer’s Support Grant) and, as the Deputy will be aware, as part of the debate on the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2018, I agreed that the Department would carry out a review on the Carers Allowance payment.
I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.