The national charity Family Carers Ireland has welcomed the social welfare measures announced in Budget 2022, saying they are a significant step in the right direction, however warns that a lot more work needs to be done to recognise and support family carers across all sections of Government.
The announcement that the means test for Carer’s Allowance will be substantially reformed for the first time in 13 years will ensure that thousands more family carers will qualify, while those currently in receipt of a reduced rate of Carer’s Allowance due to means should also see an increase in their payment. An increase in the capital disregard means that families who are in a position to save can now keep a rainy day fund rather than being forced to exhaust their savings to qualify for weekly income support
However, the €5 increase in the weekly rate of Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit does not go far enough, particularly when the Government last year deemed that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) should be €350 per week. In the medium term, Family Carers Ireland would like to see income support for family carers reflecting the value of the support they provide to the State rather than focussing on preventing destitution.
While a €5 rise in the Fuel Allowance is welcome, Carer’s Allowance is not a qualifying payment, meaning that few of those caring for loved ones around the clock will receive any additional support to help with higher heating costs.
From a health perspective, the measures announced today appear to do little to address the fragmented and inconsistent nature of supports available for those caring for a loved one including respite breaks which provides a vital lifeline for Ireland’s forgotten frontline.
Among the other initiatives welcomed by Family Carers Ireland are an extra €105m for disability services, €37m to expand mental health services, an additional 980 special education teachers and 1,165 SNAs along with €30m for national strategies which it is hoped will include a refreshed National Carers’ Strategy. Particularly welcome is the announcement that the period of time that Domiciliary Care Allowance can be paid while a child is in hospital will increase from three to six months.
Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy, Family Carers Ireland said:
“Family Carers Ireland welcomes many of the measures contained in Budget 2022 and in particular the work done by the Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys to recognise family carers and the value of their contribution.
“The changes announced to the means test for Carer’s Allowance are a significant step forward and will potentially see thousands of family carers qualifying for the payment for the first time.
“While we welcome the Minister’s willingness to address outstanding eligibility issues, going forward, there must be an emphasis on ensuring that the financial supports provide for a minimum essential standard of living for all of Ireland’s 500,000 family carers.
“Families have been under huge strain, with the vast majority of family carers taking on more care than ever before during the pandemic, placing a huge toll on their mental health and finances. An additional €5 a week will do little to help those who are facing financial hardship.
“Family carers continue to go above and beyond to protect their loved ones and reduce the burden on our health and care systems. Many have done so without vital supports including training, respite breaks and vital therapies leaving significant numbers at breaking point. Access to respite breaks is crucial for the health and wellbeing of family carers and the sustainability of the care that they provide. We are therefore disappointed that the Government has to date failed to set out plans for funding the Carer’s Guarantee to end the postcode lottery of supports and services despite having committed €2m to this in last year’s budget”.
“Family carers are truly the forgotten frontline of this pandemic. The cost to the State of replacing the 19 million hours of care provided by family carers each week would be €20bn annually. The cost to family carers of not being properly supported or recognised by the State is isolation, poor health and increasingly, carer burnout.
“Today’s measures go some way to recognising the contribution made by family carers, but a lot more work needs to be done particularly from a health care perspective.”
About Family Carers Ireland
Family Carers Ireland is the national charity supporting the 500,000+ family carers across the country who care for loved ones such as children or adults with physical or intellectual disabilities, frail older people, those with palliative care needs or those living with chronic illnesses, mental ill-health, or addiction. It provides a range of services and supports for family carers through its Carer Support Centres nationwide and through its National Freephone Careline 1800 24 07 24. See www.familycarers.ie