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We're worth €4 billion and we want action on water charges & respite payments --- Carers

Carers provide services worth the equivalent of one third of the annual cost of the HSE, they say. Here’s what they want to happen in this October’s Budget…

Environment Minister Phil Hogan at the launch of the Government's water charges programme.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan at the launch of the Government's water charges programme.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE RESTORATION OF the Respite Care Grant, a guarantee on the issue of water charges and an exemption from the Local Property Tax are amongst the priorities being highlighted by carers as they make their submission to Government today ahead of this October’s Budget.

The respite grant — which is used by carers to buy home care or pay for residential respite care to give them a break from their caring role — was controversially cut in Budget 2013. It’s now paid at the reduced rate of €1,375.

The Carers’ Association are calling it to be restored to the full value of €1,700 as part of a range of moves being outlined today.

They say the cut was “deeply unfair and disproportionate” and that steps should be taken towards raising the payment “as Ireland’s economy begins the slow journey towards recovery and cuts in income tax begin to enter the fiscal discourse”.

Taxes & charges

Water charges and the Local Property Tax are also on the agenda.

They say a guarantee is needed from the Government before the first water bills are issued at the start of next year.

While Environment Minister Phil Hogan has said that full-time carers and others will get €100 per year towards their annual bill, and that people will an illness requiring water usage will have their bill scrapped, the Association says not enough detail has been given in the area.

According to their submission:

In the absence of any clarification from the Commission on Energy Regulation as to the cost per litre of water we cannot accept that such an allowance [the €100] will be adequate to meet the essential water needs of households with a medical condition and we urge Government to consider a more effective approach to avoiding increased hospital admissions motivated by economic rather than clinical aspects of healthcare.

On the issue of the Local Property Tax, the Carers say that despite their enormous contribution, the current scheme makes no allowances for private homes where high-level care is being provided — in spite of exemptions for nursing homes, hospitals and charity-owned care centres…

Both numerically and in terms of the hours and intensity of their work, Family Carers make by far the most important contribution to the support of people with disabilities, those with mental illness, the frail, sick, and the elderly living in the community. Their enormous contribution must be incentivised rather than penalised.

Contribution

The care provided by family and friends to the ill, frail and people with disabilities is worth €4 billion to the economy each year, the Carers’ Association says.

They say this amounts to:

  • 900,000 hours of caring every day and €77 million per week
  • Is equivalent to one third of the total annual cost of the HSE (€13.3 billion)
  • Is five times what carers cost the Dept. of Social Protection in income support (€878m)
  • Means that a fulltime carer contributes on average €72,500 a year.

Priorities

Amongst the Association’s other key demands, it says the Government should:

  • Guarantee the ‘Half-rate Carers Allowance’ paid to over 24,000 people as a ‘core payment’ in order to ease concern amongst recipients.
  • Restore the Household Benefits Package (which has been cut by 40 per cent since 2011).
  • Review the application process for Carers Allowance, Carers Benefit and the Respite Care Grant (according to the association, the current system means those caring for someone with an intellectual disability or mental health issue have a far heavier paperwork burden than those caring for someone with a physical disability).
  • Extend the transition period of payments, following the death of a caree or admission to full-time residential care.
  • Increase funding for respite services, and improve access to therapies and services for children and adults with a disability.
  • Abolition of the €2.50 prescription charge in favour of a flat rate fee.

“In recent years the combination of increased household charges, welfare cuts and the rationing of essential services have put carers under immense pressure and placed Government policy and practice completely at odds,” the submission says.

“The reorientation of healthcare away from institutional-based settings in favour of care at home, while welcome, is not possible without the recalibration of the basic supports necessary to sustain people with care needs at home and in the community.

Family Carers have played their part in facilitating this shift and we are now calling on Government to do the same.

“As Ireland’s economy begins the slow journey towards recovery, we call on Government to use Budget 2015 as an opportunity to introduce measures that will recognise the home as a centre of care and signal their commitment to recognising and respecting carers and responding to their needs in very practical terms.”

Read: Respite care grant cut by over €300 in budget

Read: Rebel Labour TDs warn of “rip off” over Dublin’s property tax being spent in rural areas 

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