Thursday, 24 October 2019
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Carer's Allowance Eligibility
299. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the income disregard of €332.50 will be increased for those carers who can work the extra 3.5 hours announced in budget 2020 in view of the fact that there is fear among carers they may be penalised as the income disregard did not increase; and if the issue will be revisited (details supplied). [43862/19]
In Budget 2020, I announced that recipients of Carer’s Allowance would be allowed to increase the number of hours they can work, study or attend a training course, outside the home, from 15 to 18.5 hours per week. Over 1,200 family carers are expected to benefit from this change at an estimated cost of €11.6 million.
I particularly prioritised this measure in response to the carers I have met who have told me that they found the current number of 15 hours to be too restrictive. An increase to 18.5 will accommodate increased participation by carers in work or training to strengthen their connection with the labour force, while also serving the additional purpose of reducing the social alienation experienced by many carers.
The existing income disregard and means test for Carer’s Allowance is the most generous within the social welfare system, with the amount of weekly earnings disregarded at €332.50 for a single person and €665 for a couple. By comparison, the income disregard applied to applicants for Disability Allowance is €120 per week, with 50% of earnings between €120 and €350 disregarded. For Jobseeker's Allowance, it is €20 per day up to a maximum of €60 for 3 days and the balance is assessed at 60%. For Jobseeker's Transitional Payment, the weekly income disregard if €150 with 50% of the balance assessed as means.
In deliberating measures for Budget 2020 I did include an examination of the disregard for Carer's Allowance. In its pre-Budget submission, Family Carers Ireland looked for an increase in the disregard for Carer's Allowance of €117.50 for a single person and €235.00 for a couple per week. My Department costed this proposal using the ESRI SWITCH model. Allowing for income tax and Working Family Payment offsets, net expenditure is estimated to be approximately €55 million per year.
Changes to schemes are considered in an overall budgetary and policy context and from an evidence based perspective. Some 86% of the current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no means or means of less than €7.60 per week and would not benefit by an increase in the disregard.
Only 0.1% of current Carer's Allowance recipients have means of between €250 and €300 per week, so, it is highly unlikely that any will have their payment reduced as a result of choosing to work additional hours.
I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.