A number of the measures passed today as part of Budget 2017 were welcomed by Family Carers Ireland; however, the organisation believes much more needs to be done to support and safeguard the estimated 200,000 family carers across the country.
In particular, Family Carers Ireland believes funding for the publication and implementation of phase two of the National Carers’ Strategy 2017 – 2021 should be made available as a priority. Furthermore, it is imperative that Government take steps towards introducing a statutory entitlement to home care services which will ensure demand-led supports based on assessed needs as opposed to the existing resource-led and fragmented supports available to family carers.
Spokesperson, Catherine Cox said: “While Family Carers Ireland welcomes the announcement of an additional half a billion in the health budget, there is no indication that this will go towards home care services. There is a danger it will be swallowed up by an increased wage bill or pulled into funding residential care; under the Fair Deal scheme there is a statutory entitlement to nursing home care, while no such entitlement exist to home care.”
HSE spend on home care in 2015 (€320m) was less than that spent in 2008 (€331m) despite a 25% increase in the population aged over 65 years.. “Family Carers Ireland called for Budget 2017 to increase funding for home care services to at least €414m to meet this 25% increase and ensure no person assessed as needing home support is forced onto a waiting list. We are bitterly disappointed to note that no such increase has been announced in today’s budget” stated Catherine Cox.
The increase in Carer’s Allowance of €5 per week, payable from March, while welcome, does not go far enough in recognising the unique status of family carers within the Social Protection budget, particularly in light of the fact that they are the only social welfare recipients that have to work in excess of 35 hours per week for their means-tested payment. While this increase goes some way towards recognising the contribution of family carers, reaction will be tempered by the fact this rise represents an increase of 2.5% where family carers had called for an increase in line with the projected public sector pay rises of 6.5%.
Though not specifically aimed at family carers, the modest increase of €100 per annum to the Home Carer’s Tax Credit is welcomed. This increase will benefit families who are balancing work and care, as well as many carers who fall outside the means test for Carer’s Allowance.
Also welcomed are the following changes:
• Extension of medical card to all children in receipt of Domiciliary Care Allowance
• Increase in funding for National Treatment Purchase Fund of € 15 million to address waiting lists
• Christmas bonus of 85% to all social welfare recipients
• Reduction in €25 cap on prescription charges to those over 70 to € 20 from March
• Additional 900 Resource teachers
• Increase in funding to allow children with disabilities to access free preschool
• Payment of Carers Allowance extended to 12 weeks following admission to a nursing home, in line with payment after death of the caree.
In its pre-budget submission, titled, ‘Achieving Fairness for Family Carers’, Family Carers Ireland outlined 5 key areas which needed to be addressed for Carers:
1. Publish Phase Two of the National Carers’ Strategy with ring-fenced funding for its implementation
2. Ensure family carers are not financially burdened as a result of their caring role
3. Create a more ‘carer-friendly’ health service
4. Recognise the home as a centre of care
5. Invest in the futures of young carers
While the measures revealed today as part of Budget 2017 are welcomed and will go some way to helping Carers, much more needs to be done. Family carers are Ireland’s unseen workforce, and are contributing 6.2 million unpaid hours of care each week, which provides the State with a saving of €4 billion each year. Families should not be burdened as a result of their caring role and benefits such as the reinstatement of the Household Benefits Package, including the telephone allowance are an absolute necessity yet we have not seen these restored in today’s budget.
For further information, please contact:
Catherine Cox, Head of Communication, Family Carers Ireland on 086 852 1611
Carol Donaghy, Purcell Masterson, 085 8018946
Note to editor: Prior to Budget 2017 the basic Carers Allowance payment was €204 per week (maximum weekly rate). The Budget 2017 increase of €5 per week represents an increase of 2.45% which is well short of projected pay rises in the public sector of 6.5%.