Carer's Benefit is a payment made to insured people who leave the workforce to care for someone in need of full-time care and attention. A person may be eligible for Carer's Benefit if they have enough PRSI contributions. This and other care-related supports, such as the Carer’s Allowance payment and the Carer’s Support Grant, provide recognition and support for the valuable role of carers.
Carer’s Benefit is payable for a maximum period of 104 weeks for each person being cared for. It can be taken in one block or in separate periods as long as the combined total does not exceed 104 weeks. The current weekly rate is €220.00. Where a person is caring for two or more care recipients, the rate of payment is increased by 50%.
At the end of May 2019, there were 2,724 carers in receipt of Carer’s Benefit. An Increase for a Qualified Child was being made in respect of 824 children, 302 of whom are aged 12 years or more. Estimated expenditure on Carer’s Benefit in 2019 is €37.83m.
It is not possible to estimate the cost of extending the number of weeks Carer’s Benefit is paid from 104 to 156 weeks due to the unpredictability of the variables underlying this payment. This is primarily due to not being able to forecast the extent of the possible duration of payment for existing recipients and also because of the potential for an increase in the number of claims if the payment is available for an extended period. Some recipients have recently started receiving payment, others are reaching the end of the max payment period and others are only in receipt of the payment for a short period of time e.g. in the case of a terminal illness.
It should be noted that not all those claiming Carer’s Benefit opt to remain in payment for the full 104 weeks. My Department examined this matter in 2017 and found that the average duration on Carer’s Benefit was 74.2 weeks between 2010 and 2016. Therefore, the current 104 week payment duration represents a reasonable length of time to support a carer’s temporary absence from work. Where care is provided beyond the period of entitlement to Carer’s Benefit, the means tested Carer’s Allowance is available for those who are in need of income support. These arrangements ensure an efficient use of public funds while assisting those who are in most need of an income support.
Furthermore the right to carer's leave from employment complements the Carer's Benefit Scheme. The Carer's Leave Act 2001 allows employees to leave their employment temporarily to provide full-time care for someone in need of full-time care and attention. A person is entitled to take carer’s leave of at least 13 weeks up to a maximum of 104 weeks. Carer's leave from employment is unpaid but the Carer’s Leave Act ensures that people who want to take carer's leave will have their jobs kept open for them while they are on carer's leave.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.