I propose to take Question Nos. 9, 16 and 53 together.
The carer income supports provided by my Department include carer's allowance, carer's benefit, domiciliary care allowance, and the carer's support grant. More than 135,000 carers are supported by regular income payments and spending on these in 2021 is expected to be in the region of €1.5 billion.
As part of budget 2022, I announced significant changes to the means test for carer's allowance that will allow carers to have a higher weekly household income and a higher level of savings and still qualify for a carer's allowance payment. From next June, the income disregarded in the means test for carer's allowance will increase from €332.50 to €350 for a single person, and from €665 to €750 for a couple. In addition, the amount of capital or savings disregarded in the means test will be increased from €20,000 to €50,000. These are the first changes to the carer's allowance means test in some 14 years and will ensure thousands more people will now qualify for the payment. In addition, many carers who are currently on a reduced payment rate due to means will move to a higher payment.
From January, the domiciliary care allowance, which currently continues to be paid for children who enter hospital for up to three months, will now be available up to six months. Importantly, carer's allowance will also be paid during this period where applicable. This measure will ensure parents are supported at what is a very difficult time when a child is in hospital for a prolonged period of time.
All of these measures will be included in the Social Welfare Bill 2021 which will be brought through the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming weeks.