FCI Calls For Radical Reform Of Carer's Allowance As First Step Towards Comprehensive Care Reform

Posted on Thursday 06 July 2023


Thursday 6th July 2023: Family Carers Ireland is urging the government to undertake a transformative and comprehensive overhaul of care in Ireland. In its pre-budget submission, the charity supporting Ireland’s 500,000+ family carers, emphasises the urgent need for proactive planning in the provision of vital supports for individuals with care needs, spanning across their entire lifespan.

Family Carers Ireland has repeatedly called for an overhaul of the Carer’s Allowance scheme, which was first introduced 33 years ago, and this remains its priority in Budget 2024. It is now calling on the Government to use Budget 2024 to begin a 4-year journey, which would see a consistent increase in the income disregard in Budget 2024, Budget 2025, and Budget 2026 with the abolition of the Carer’s Allowance means test and the introduction of a Participation Income Payment for full-time family carers by 2027.

Family Carers Ireland is also advocating for a substantial increase in Carer's Allowance and Carer's Benefit to €325. This adjustment is crucial in acknowledging the substantial and unavoidable expenses that caring families encounter, as well as assisting them in coping with the escalating costs of living. Additionally, Family Carers Ireland is urging for an increase in the Carer's Support Grant to €2,000 in Budget 2024, recognising its significance as a financial support for family carers.

Overall, Family Carers Ireland is urging the government to give priority to the following issues in Budget 2024:

  • Increase Carer's Allowance income disregard to €1,000 (couples) and €500 (single carers) in Budgets 2024, 2025, and 2026, with the aim of abolishing the means test by 2027 and introducing a Participation Income for family carers
  • Raise Carer's Allowance and Carer's Benefit to €325 in Budget 2024 to recognise the financial burdens faced by caring families.
  • Increase the Carer's Support Grant to €2,000 in Budget 2024 to acknowledge the crucial role of full-time carers.
  • Reform the outdated Carer's Allowance scheme, which undervalues care work and forces carers to be financially dependent on their partners.
  • Allocate funding in Budget 2024 to reimburse or cover the costs of assessments and therapies through the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
  • Extend the National Treatment Purchase Fund to include timely assessments and therapies and address the findings of the Mental Health Commission's interim report on CAMHS.
  • Develop a ten-year plan for inclusive education, updating the EPSEN Act 2004 and providing increased funding and resources for the school Summer Programme.
  • Allocate funding for resources and individual transition plans to support young people transitioning from child to adult care.
  • Provide funding for additional residential places and support the transition of adults under 65 from nursing homes to more appropriate homes.
  • Increase grant limits, income thresholds, and disregards under the Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme and standardise rents under the Differential Rent Scheme.
  • Allocate funding to meet the demand implications of introducing a Statutory Home Support Scheme and address the staffing crisis in the homecare and disability sectors.
  • Grant full-time family carers the right to a minimum of 20 days of free respite each year; conduct an audit of existing respite provision and establish a national respite register to determine existing and future respite needs.
  • Introduce the Transport Support Scheme to replace the Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant and expand eligibility for the Primary Medical Certificate and Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme.
  • Fully fund the Carers' Guarantee and ensure adequate provision for local carer supports in each region through Regional Health Authorities.

Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy at Family Carers Ireland, states: “There is a widespread consensus that the current system is unfit for purpose and needs urgent reform. We do not shy away from the fact, nor the reality that many of the challenges facing family carers have been deeply ingrained for years and, even with the required resources and political will, cannot be fixed overnight. But it is high time that we made a start. It is only fair that the Government utilises some of the super surplus in the state’s finances to initiate this change.

“One of our top priorities in Budget 2024 is to embark on a four-year journey to address the long-standing shortcomings of the Carer's Allowance scheme. This would cost an extra €397 million per annum. By consistently increasing the income disregard and ultimately eliminating the means test, we aim to provide much-needed financial support and recognition for the invaluable work performed by family carers.

“Family carers, who save the public purse billions of euros a year, are being expected to quietly prop up our health system with little to no support. Instead, they are pushed to their limits by relentless caregiving responsibilities, scarce opportunities for respite, and inadequate and patchy support and services. As the cost-of-living crisis has continued to bite, these pressures have only been compounded, and meeting them is doubly hard when family carers are forced out of work due to the demands of caring. Many are terrified about what the future holds.

“Relied upon but not listened to and expected to give so much but getting little in return, family carers are constantly expected to persevere without receiving the assistance they need and deserve. They are overlooked and consistently sidelined in policy and funding considerations, despite their acknowledged value. This situation simply cannot continue, so we have set out an extensive range of policy recommendations that must be pursued as a matter of urgency. It is time for action, it is time for substantial and meaningful change."

2024 Pre-Budget Submission: Care Across the Life Course


2024 Pre-Budget Submission: A Roadmap for the Reform of Carer’s Allowance