The main income supports for carers provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant. The projected expenditure on Carer’s Allowance in 2020 is approximately €919 million. Combined spending on all these payments to carers in 2020 is expected to exceed €1.3 billion.
Carer's Allowance is a means tested payment made to people whose income falls below certain limits, and who are looking after certain people in need of full-time care and attention.
This allowance is part of the system of social assistance supports that provide payments based on an income need. The means test plays a critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency – such as disability, unemployment or caring. This ensures that the recipient has a verifiable income need and that resources are targeted to those who need them most.
Current disregards for Carer’s Allowance are €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple, making the means test for carers the least onerous within the social protection system.
A couple earning a joint annual income of up to €37,500 (net of PRSI and other allowable deductions) can qualify for maximum payment and, given the tapered withdrawal approach, retain a payment of just under half-rate while earning €49,750. A single person may retain a full-rate payment while having an annual income of just under €19,000, and retain a payment of just under half-rate while having an annual income of €25,400.
The Department has made an estimate of the cost of increasing the weekly income disregards for Carer’s Allowance to €450 for a single person and to €900 for a couple using the ESRI SWITCH model. This analysis suggests that it would cost in the region of an additional €73 million per annum with net expenditure estimated in the order of €55 million per annum.
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 an increase in the disregard.
My Department also offers other, non-means-tested supports to carers. The Carer’s Support Grant is not mean-tested and is available to all carers who meet the eligibility criteria. The payment is not dependent on a person receiving a weekly carer’s payment. This non-taxable grant of €1,700 is payable annually in June.
I can assure the Deputy that I am very much aware of the key role that family carers play in our society and I will continue to keep the range of supports available to carers under review; however, any changes to scheme criteria would have implications for overall spending and would need to be addressed in an overall budgetary context.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.