Family Carers Ireland is calling on the Government to ensure those caring for loved ones with additional needs receive fair compensation for the care they provide and are not excluded from supports due to their means. In its pre-budget submission, the charity supporting Ireland’s 500,000+ family carers 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 by Family Carers Ireland, 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 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 (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.
In Budget 2023, Family Carers Ireland is calling on the Government to:
- Undertake an urgent review of Carer’s Allowance to contribute to fundamental reforms including the reclassification of the scheme, the abolition of the means-test or the establishment of a Participation Income for carers. Pending this review, the weekly rate of Carer’s Allowance should increase to €325.
- Urgently address the gross inadequacy of children’s disability services by extending the NTPF to include psychology, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy.
- Invest the resources needed to fully operationalise the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act.
- Provide €5m in annual funding to deliver the Carer’s Guarantee to reduce the gaps in carer support across the country
- Increase the Tax Credits available to family carers and make Carer’s Allowance exempt from tax.
Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy, Family Carers Ireland said: “Our State of Caring survey reveals quite clearly that existing state supports just do not go far enough. The time for change has come.
“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.
“As we navigate the current cost-of-living crisis, now is the time to reassess the value we place on care and to review how family carers are recognised and supported financially by the State. We believe fundamental change should now take place and we are calling on the Government to abolish the means test for Carer’s Allowance.
“Unfortunately, many family carers receive no support or recognition for the immense work they do day in, day out. This Government can no longer afford to merely pay lip service to this issue and needs to recognise the hardship that so many families are experiencing in looking after their loved ones. We need to support the family carers that support our society. It’s time for change.”