Family Carers Ireland notes the announcement of one million additional home care hours in Budget 2020. While a step in the right direction, this will not be enough to clear the current waiting list or keep up with demand and demographic changes. Given the failure to deliver on the promised hours for 2019, it is unclear as to how many of these “additional” hours will be required to catch up on this years’ shortfall.
An increase of 7% in the homecare budget in 2018 saw a decrease in service levels as it was absorbed in pay increases and travel costs for HSE staff. The announced increase of one million hours represents a 6% increase for 2020 which will not clear the current waiting list of 7,300.
The organisation representing the 355,000 family carers in Ireland welcomes the increase in the hours carers can work or study outside the home each week and remain eligible for Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit or the Carer’s Support Grant. We have since received clarification that the income disregard for Carer’s Allowance has not increased which means that carers hoping to work additional hours (up to 18.5) may be negatively impacted by having their Carer’s Allowance reduced if they increase their hours. We will lobby strongly for this issue to be addressed as it could create a poverty trap for some family carers.
The five urgent priorities outlined by Family Carers Ireland in its pre-budget submission were:
- Reform the means test for Carer’s Allowance.
- Increase the hours a carer can work/study from 15 hours to 18.5 hours weekly.
- End the postcode lottery in homecare and carer supports.
- Replace the Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant withdrawn in 2013.
- Extend the GP Visit Card to include carers in receipt of the Carer’s Support Grant.
We acknowledge other positive measures including a €100 increase in the Home Carer Tax Credit, a 50c reduction in prescription charges, a €10 reduction in the monthly threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme, an additional €25m for the National Treatment Purchase Fund, plans to recruit an additional 1,000 therapists, nurses and other healthcare professionals and €13m for the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme.
Reacting to Budget 2020, Head of Communications and Carer Engagement Catherine Cox said:
“Family Carers Ireland saw Budget 2020 as an opportunity for the Government to prove their commitment to carers. We welcome the 3.5 hour increase that carers can work each week. However, we are disappointed to see our other urgent priorities neglected once again this year, especially for those suffering from carer burnout. Over two thirds of carers suffer with physical ill health and two in three carers feel that their health has suffered as a result of caring. Yet despite this, the GP Visit Card was not extended to carers in receipt of the Carer’s Support Grant which would have brought a significant group of carers into the net for this vital support. In its current form, the GP Visit Card is targeted at those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Benefit, thereby making it a means tested benefit which is entirely at odds with Government’s plan for the universal roll out of free GP care.
Note to the Editor
Family Carers Ireland is the national charity supporting the 355,000 family carers across the country who dedicate their lives to caring for loved ones such as children or adults with physical or intellectual disabilities, older people, the terminally ill or those suffering from chronic illnesses or addiction.
It provides a range of services and supports for family carers through its 22 resource centres nationwide.
*Figures taken from ‘Paying the Price: The Physical, Mental and Psychological Impact of Caring’ which was conducted by Family Carers Ireland in collaboration with the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems. See: https://familycarers.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Paying-the-Price-The-Physical-Mental-and-Psychological-Impact-of-Caring.pdf