Reform of Carer's Allowance Now Urgently Required

Posted on Thursday 23 March 2023


Government accepts Independent Group motion calling for fundamental reform of the Carer’s Allowance scheme

Thursday 23rd March 2023: Family Carers Ireland has welcomed a motion put before the Oireachtas this week by Marian Harkin TD calling for fundamental reform of the Carer’s Allowance scheme. The motion, supported by Independent TDs Michael Fitzmaurice TD, Michael McNamara TD, Joan Collins TD and Catherine Connolly TD, received overwhelming support from all speakers in the Dáil. Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys stated that the Government would not oppose the motion.

The motion called on the Government to:

  • Increase the Income Disregard for Carer’s Allowance to €900 per week per household (or the equivalent average weekly earnings for 2023) in Budget 2024 and increase it to at least €450 per week for a single carer.
  • Fundamentally reform the Carer’s Allowance scheme to ensure:
    • the adequacy of the Carer’s Allowance payment;
    • the income disregard for Carer’s Allowance is further significantly increased above the average weekly earnings level with pro-rata increases for single carers
    • an individualised approach to the means testing of carers’ payments;
    • that young carers are adequately supported to have a life and opportunities outside their caring roles.

Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy with Family Carers Ireland, said: 

“We wish to acknowledge and thank Deputy Harkin for her continuous support for family carers over many years both at a national and European level; and for bringing this motion forward for discussion.  

"We believe that in deciding not to oppose this motion, the Government has accepted that the value of work being done by family carers deserves to be better compensated and that the current Carer’s Allowance scheme must be reformed.

“As the motion states, the Carer’s Allowance scheme, which has been in place for 33 years, is inadequate, gender biased, overly restrictive and no longer fit for purpose. Support for family carers should be needs based and not means based.

“There is no doubt that the current Carer’s Allowance scheme undervalues care - approximately 1 in 8 recipients of Carer’s Allowance receive a reduced rate and thousands of full-time family carers are excluded from the scheme entirely due to their means.

“The current income disregards bear no resemblance to the actual disposable income of caring households and whilst some progress has been made in the past two years specifically by Minister Humphreys to address the payment inadequacies, more needs to be done as a matter of urgency. Government has failed to meet their commitment to expand the income disregard for the Carer’s Allowance to keep pace with the average industrial income and the cost-of-living crisis.

“It is not good enough that many family carers are receiving payments which fall way below the established minimum essential standard of living (MESL). The income inadequacy imposed by existing social welfare payments must be addressed to ensure it can sufficiently support the needs of family carers and those they care for.

“We know that many family carers providing round the clock care are struggling financially and emotionally. They have been experiencing persistent financial strain long before the cost-of-living crisis and now the situation is even bleaker. Reform is long over-due.

“Both the Citizen’s Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality recommend moving towards an individualised approach to the means testing of carer payments, with the Citizen’s Assembly recommending a move towards an individualised social protection system, while the Oireachtas committee recommends assessing applicants for Carer’s Allowance on their individual means rather than those of their partner or other household members.

“Family Carers Ireland now looks forward to building on this foundation and working with Government to ensure that family carers are truly recognised, valued and remunerated in the upcoming budget for 2024 by implementing some of these crucial reforms.”