The thresholds for earning in relation to qualification for the Carer’s Allowance must be examined, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “In a recent response to a Parliamentary Question I raised, Minister Humphreys detailed that 89,523 people were in receipt of the Carer’s Allowance.
“Although there has been a positive increase to the allowance of over 50% since 2015, it still doesn’t take into account families who are greatly impacted by a change in circumstance. A lot of people are excluded because of the means test as it currently is. They are locked out of the system even though they are doing huge amounts of care work on a daily basis.
“In particular, I’m thinking of multiple families in my constituency alone who have an unwell child. These families, often with other children, go from a two-income household, to a one income household, with greatly increased medical bills.
“Councillor Vicki Casserly and I have been working on improving the situation for families whose children spend a lot of time in hospital. We’ve met with families all over the country to hear their stories about long or frequent hospitals stays and the practical burden this places on their family lives, including the many hidden costs and challenges faced by parents of children in hospital.
“For example, according to the Childhood Illness, Financial Stress. The Hidden Costs of Hospital Care for Children Report, €47 is spent by parents on food every day their child is in hospital. There are parking, accommodation (for a second parent) and childcare costs, as well as the opportunity cost of a parent changing their working life to care for a child with a serious or long term illness. This is a challenge faced by many families across Ireland today and a challenge that could be faced by any family at any time. There are few more vulnerable places for any child or parent than being in a children’s hospital, and parents have enough pressures to face without the additional financial worries caused. We are working with Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys to find better ways to meet these challenges.
“However, a huge part of addressing the challenge of costs for families with an additional care responsibility is changing the means test for the Carer’s Allowance. This would be a great assistance to many of these families, not just when in hospital.
“I know that 92% of current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no additional income so would not necessarily benefit from changes to the means test. However that is still 8% of recipients who would be positively affected by a change to the means test. There are also many others who currently may not benefit from the Carer’s Allowance at all, working families who are just outside the means test but for whom the financial challenges, as well as the personal and care challenges, are huge.
“Family carers play a big, and often under acknowledged role in our country. We must do better by them and take into account the additional costs faced by families who care for an unwell family member. This absolutely must be examined in the context of Budget 2022,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.