Thursday, 15 October 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
203. Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the carer’s strategy has not yet been published; when she will do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36476/09]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Deputy Mary Hanafin): The Government is acutely aware and appreciative of the contribution made by carers to people needing ongoing care and support. In recognition of this, considerable improvements have been made in recent years in services and supports for carers. Over the past decade, weekly payment rates to carers have greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer’s allowance have significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer’s benefit, half-rate carer’s allowance and the respite care grant have been introduced and extended.
In Budget 2009, the rate of carer’s allowance for those aged 66 or over increased by €7 to €239 per week and for those aged under 66 by €6.50 to €220.50 per week. These increases took effect from January 2009. Recipients of carer’s allowance are also eligible for household benefits and free travel and the respite care grant. It is estimated that the combined expenditure on carer’s allowance, carer’s benefit, the respite care grant and half-rate carer’s allowance will be €650 million in 2009.
In addition, my colleague the Minister for Health and Children has over recent years, provided significant additional investment either to put in place, or expand, a range of community based services such as Home Helps, Home Care Packages, Day/Respite Care, and Meals-on-Wheels. All of these are designed to support recipients and their families, so that those requiring care can remain in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.
During 2008 an interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, with secretariat support provided by my Department, undertook work, including a public consultation process to develop a National Carers’ Strategy. However, because of the prevailing economic situation, it was not possible to set targets or time lines which could be achieved. In that context, rather than publishing a document which did not include any significant plans for the future, the Government decided not to publish a strategy. This position remains unchanged. The work carried out by the interdepartmental group and the submissions made to it have been useful and will, of course, contribute to the development of carers policy in the future.
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