As part of Budget 2020, I announced that recipients of Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit and the Carer’s Support Grant would be allowed to increase the number of hours they can work, study or attend a training course, outside the home, from 15 to 18.5 hours per week. An additional 1,200 family carers are expected to benefit from 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.
I particularly prioritised this measure in response to the carers I have met who have told me that they found the current number of 15 hours to be too restrictive. 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 serving the additional purpose of reducing the social alienation experienced by many carers.
Carer’s Benefit is not means tested. The existing income disregard and means test for Carer’s Allowance is the most generous within the social welfare system. Weekly earnings disregarded is currently €332.50 for a single person and €665 for a couple.
Changes to schemes are considered in an overall budgetary and policy context and from an evidence based perspective. Some 92% of the current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no means or means of less than €7.60 per week and would not benefit by increasing the disregard.
Carers who would benefit from an increased disregard would be in higher income households. Given the need to target available resources fairly and equitably to those in most need, allowing an increase in the number of hours was the best use of the limited resources available.
I hope this clarifies the issue for the Deputy.