Dáil Éireann - Volume 681 - 28 April, 2009
Written Answers. - National Carers Strategy.
Deputy Andrew Doyle Deputy Andrew Doyle
Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the alternative strategy for the support of carers being proposed; and if he has decided not to publish the national carers strategy. [16248/09]
Deputy Mary Hanafin Deputy Mary Hanafin
Deputy Mary Hanafin: My strategy is to continue providing the greatly improved level of services and supports for carer’s which this Government has introduced over the past decade.
During that time weekly payment rates to carers have greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer’s allowance have significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer’s benefit, half-rate carer’s allowance and the respite care grant have been introduced and extended.
The means test for carer’s allowance has been significantly eased over the years, and is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse’s earnings. Since April 2008, the income disregard has been €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple. This means that a couple with two children can earn in the region of €37,200 and qualify for the maximum rate of Carer’s Allowance as well as the associated free travel and household benefits. A couple with an income in the region of €60,400 can still qualify for a minimum payment, as well as the associated free travel, household  benefits package. These levels surpass the Towards 2016 commitment to ensure those on average industrial earnings continue to qualify for a full carer’s allowance.
From June 2005, the annual respite care grant was extended to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care, regardless of their income. The rate of the respite care grant has also been increased to €1,700 per year in respect of each care recipient since June 2008.
In June 2006, the number of hours for which a person can engage in employment, self-employment, education or training and still be considered to be providing full time care for the purposes of carer’s allowance, carer’s benefit and the respite care grant was increased from 10 to 15 hours per week. Budget 2007 provided for new arrangements whereby people can receive a maximum payment equivalent to a half-rate carers allowance while receiving another social welfare payment, other than jobseekers benefit or allowance. These measures came into effect in September 2007.
In Budget 2009, I increased the rate of carer’s allowance for those aged 66 or over by €7 to €239 per week and for those aged under 66 by €6.50 to €220.50 per week. These increases took effect from January 2009. Recipients of carer’s allowance are also eligible for household benefits and free travel and the respite care grant.
It is estimated that the combined expenditure on carer’s allowance, carer’s benefit, the respite care grant and half-rate carer’s allowance will be €650 million in 2009. As regards publishing a National Carers’ Strategy, during 2008 an interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, with secretariat support provided by my Department, undertook work, including a public consultation process to develop a strategy. However, because of the prevailing economic situation, it was not possible to set targets or time lines which could be achieved. In that context, rather than publishing a document which did not include any significant plans for the future, the Government decided not to publish a strategy. This position remains unchanged.
My officials recently met with the Carers Association to discuss proposals which they had put forward in the absence of the National Carers Strategy. While the majority of the proposals relate to services provided by the Department of Health and Children and the Health Services Executive, my officials are committed to working with the Association on any proposals which can be progressed by this Department within existing resources.
Dáil Éireann 681 Written Answers. National Carers Strategy.