Family Carers Ireland calls for abolishion of means test in Budget 2023

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Pictured is Family Carer Tracy Carroll and her five-year-old daughter Willow from Kells, Co Meath with (from right) Family Carers Ireland’s Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy, Dr. Nikki Dunne, Research Manager, and Clare Duffy, Policy and Public Affairs Manager. PHOTO: Mark Stedman

Family Carers Ireland has called on the Government to ensure those caring for loved ones with additional needs receive fair compensation are not excluded from supports due to their means.

In its pre-budget submission, the charity supporting over half a million family carers in Ireland is calling for a complete overhaul of the Carer’s Allowance scheme which would result in the abolition of the means test.

The call comes as a survey of almost 1,500 current family carers highlights the huge personal and financial cost of caring for a loved one.

The State of Caring 2022, published today, finds that over two thirds of family carers (68%) surveyed are already experiencing financial distress, 13% are in arrears with their rent or mortgage and 16% are behind on utility bills.

Almost a quarter (23%) of those struggling financially are cutting back on essentials such as food and heat to make ends meet.

The report suggests that significant numbers are experiencing fuel and food poverty, with 5% of those surveyed reporting a reliance on food banks and 9% on charities.

The survey also found that many rely on borrowing from family (29%), taking out loans (15%) and overdrafts from the bank (19%).

This is on top of deep concern about practical support where 70% reported difficulty accessing services for at least one of the people they care for.

More than half of respondants (52%) said that at least one of the people they care for are currently on a waiting list, 69% experience barriers accessing respite, while 24% have experienced a delay or reduction in the delivery of home support hours/packages due to shortage of homecare workers.

As a result, many are struggling financially, physically and emotionally with 71% feeling left out of society and 51% reporting feeling severely lonely since the onset of the pandemic.

Family Carers Ireland said the Government must undertake an urgent review of Carer’s Allowance, to reclassify the scheme, abolish of the means-test or set up a Participation Income for carers.

Pending this review, they say that the weekly rate of Carer’s Allowance should increase to €325.

The charity also believes that the Government must address the ‘gross inadequacy of children’s disability services’ by extending the NTPF to include psychology, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy.

Other calls by the charity include investing the resources needed to fully operationalise the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act, providing €5m in annual funding to deliver the Carer’s Guarantee to reduce the gaps in carer support across the country, and increasing the Tax Credits available to family carers and make Carer’s Allowance exempt from tax.

Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy at Family Carers Ireland, said that the survey reveals ‘quite clearly that existing state supports just do not go far enough’.

“The time for change has come,” she said. “It is imperative that the Government uses Budget 2023 to begin to transform what has now become an antiquated and paternalistic model of support for family carers into a mutual and equal partnership where those caring for loved ones are valued for their immense contribution; receive fair compensation for the care they provide and are not excluded from supports due to their means.”