Written answers

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Department of Social and Family Affairs

National Carers Strategy

8:00 pm

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 344: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the national carers strategy will be delivered. [29754/07]

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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Supporting and recognising carers in our society is, and has been, a priority of the Government since 1997. Over that period, weekly payment rates to carers have been greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have been significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit and the respite care grant have been introduced and extended.

One of the key Government commitments in the national partnership agreement "Towards 2016" is the development of a national carer's strategy and this commitment is reiterated in the Programme for Government. I am aware that one of the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs "Report on the Position of Full Time Carers" which was published in 2003 was that such a strategy should be developed. I am pleased that we are now in a position to act on that recommendation.

The strategy will focus on supporting informal and family carers in the community. While social welfare supports for carers will clearly be a key issue in the strategy, other issues such as access to respite and other services, education, training and employment will also feature strongly. Co-operation between relevant Government departments and agencies is essential if the provision of services, supports and entitlements for carers is to be fully addressed. For that reason all relevant departments and agencies will be involved in the strategy and there will be appropriate consultation with the social partners.

My officials have been in discussions with their colleagues in other relevant Departments in order to decide on the best approach to the development of the strategy.

In view of the need to ensure that appropriate arrangements and structures are in place to support its development, it will not be possible to complete the strategy by the end of this year as had been intended originally.

An inter-Departmental working group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, will be established in the coming weeks to draw up the strategy and I expect it to be completed by summer of 2008.

The recent improvements in the income supports available from this Department represents major improvements in supports available to carers in the community. The development of a national carer's strategy provides us with an opportunity to build further on these improvements and to consider other areas where progress can be made.

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 345: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there are plans to increase the respite grants. [29756/07]

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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Supporting and recognising carers in our society is, and has been, a priority of the Government since 1997. Over that period, weekly payment rates to carers have been greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have been significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit and the respite care grant have been introduced and extended.

In Budget 2005 the respite care grant was extended to all people providing full time care and attention regardless of their means or social insurance contributions. In addition, since June 2005, the respite care grant is payable in respect of each care recipient. From June 2007, the level of the grant was increased by €300 per year to €1,500 per year in respect of each person being cared for.

The Programme for Government commits the Government to doubling the level of the respite care grant.

I will keep the supports for carers, available from my Department under review in order to continue to improve the schemes.

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