Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Ceisteanna (17)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

17. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if increasing the financial thresholds for carer’s allowance will be investigated; if the introduction of discretionary assessments in cases of extreme extenuating circumstances similar to the discretionary system utilised in the medical card application process will be investigated; the position regarding the measures taken to reduce the waiting times for decisions on applications for carer’s allowance and other payments across the social welfare spectrum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38807/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Carer's Allowance is a means-tested payment for carers who look after people in need of care and attention on a full time basis. It acts as an income support for those who cannot work due to their caring responsibilities. The means test is one of the most generous in the social welfare system, especially in respect of spouse’s income. The income disregard is €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple. This means that a couple can earn in the region of €37,500 and qualify for the maximum rate. A half-rate Carer's Allowance may be payable with other welfare payments.

The means test has a critical role in determining whether or not there is an income need for a payment and that resources are targeted to those with greatest need. Any changes to qualifying criteria for schemes, including income disregards, would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

Decisions on claims are made by Deciding Officers of the Department in line with provisions set out in legislation. This ensures that rules are applied consistently and transparently to all applicants.

The processing times for all claims is constantly monitored, with steps taken to improve processing times within existing resource allocations when though necessary. These measures may include the assignment of additional staff, where available, and reviewing business processes to ensure the efficient processing of applications. The average processing time for the award of a Carer’s Allowance between January and August 2019 was 14 weeks.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.