I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 76 together.
Carer’s Allowance is a means-tested payment, made to a person who is providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that they require that level of full-time care. As of end of October 2019, there were 83,085 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance. The projected expenditure on Carer's Allowance in 2019 is almost €840 million.
In order to support a carer’s continued attachment to the workforce and broader social inclusion, carers may engage in some limited employment, education or training, while still being regarded as being in a position to provide full-time care. During this time, adequate provision must be made for the care of the relevant person.
As part of Budget 2020, I increased the number of hours that family carers can work, study or attend a training course outside the home, from 15 to 18.5 hours per week. Those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit and the Carer’s Support Grant can avail of this change which will come into effect from Monday 6 January 2020.
Over 1,200 additional family carers are expected to qualify for payment as a result of this change at an estimated cost of €11.6 million. Also, any carer currently working less than 18.5 hours per week can avail of the additional hours.
An increase to 18.5 hours will accommodate increased participation by carers in work or training to strengthen their connection with the labour force, while also reducing the social alienation experienced by many carers.
Carer's Allowance acts as an income support for those who cannot earn an income due to their full-time caring responsibilities. I consider the new limit of 18.5 hours to represent a reasonable balance between meeting the care recipient's requirement for full-time care and the carer's need to maintain contact with the workforce. Any further changes to this condition would need to maintain this balance and also be considered in a budgetary context.
I hope this clarifies the issue for the Deputy.