Tuesday, 11 June 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Leo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
This is national carer's week. I want to join my voice to those of the Deputy and others in this House who have paid tribute to carers, who do enormous work for their families and others. The Government and society place enormous value on the work of those who care for people in their own homes and in other homes. Those are not just words; in the last couple of years the Government has made some substantial changes to improve the supports that exist for carers. The carer's support grant, which had been cut, has been fully restored and is being paid at the moment. Indeed, there is no means test for that. Over the course of the last three budgets, we have increased carer's allowance and carer's benefit by €15 a week. The means test for carer's allowance is considered to be one of the fairest and most generous in the developed world. Last year, we extended free GP care to people in receipt of carer's allowance and carer's benefit because we believe carers need to be cared for too. Now they can attend their doctors without having to pay consultation fees. There has been an increase in provision for respite. Approximately 12 new respite houses are being opened across the country to provide more respite for people. This allows carers to take a break, which is important for their physical and mental health. I reiterate that there has not been any cut in funding for home support and home care. In 2018, the total budget was €418 million and 15.7 million home support hours, including intensive home care packages, were provided. Almost €30 million extra has been provided in this year's budget, which allows us to increase the number of home help hours being provided from 17.5 million to 18.5 million. An additional 1 million hours are being provided this year. This is quite a substantial increase. As is always the case when it comes to health and social care, however, there is no limit to demand. We have to manage within our means. We have to make sure that we come in on budget and that we provide for this appropriately.