Carers call for protection of half-rate allowance


ANY ATTEMPT to cut the half-rate carer’s allowance or to close it to new applicants will end up costing the State more in the long-term, it has been claimed.

The Carers’ Association said the allowance, introduced two years ago, is saving the State money by keeping people out of expensive nursing homes which cost an average of €40,000 a year.

The payment is currently €110 a week and is given to 18,500 people already in receipt of a social welfare payment, such as those claiming a widow’s or State pension. It is given as a recognition of the extra costs in providing full-time care in the home.

In its pre-budget submission yesterday, the association said the payment, which costs an estimated €90 million a year, offers “excellent value” as it would only buy five to six hours of professional care in a nursing home per week.

The association cited the example of single mother Alison McKim (39) who cares for her son Zack (17), who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, asthma and is blind.

She is also in receipt of the lone parent’s allowance which is €220 a week and a €190 per week disability payment for her son.

Ms McKimm, who lives in Terenure, said the half-rate carer’s allowance “means the difference between getting out of poverty or not. Considering what it would cost to put Zack into full-time care, I think it is disgraceful that the Government would consider cutting such an allowance.”

The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, better known as “An Bord Snip Nua”, recommended that all such double social welfare payments be ended.

Carers’ Association chief executive Enda Egan said there was “real concern” the half-rate carer’s allowance scheme would be closed to new applicants after the budget, creating a two-tier system. He described any such proposal a potentially “serious error of judgment”.

Meanwhile, actor and former star in RTÉ series Glenroe Robert Carrickford has described as an “absolute scandalous disgrace” any possible cut to the State pension in the forthcoming budget.

Carrickford, who played character Stephen Brennan in the series, was speaking yesterday at the start of a national campaign, by the Older and Bolder alliance, against cuts to pensions or supports for older people.

The alliance, which has among its seven members Active Retirement Ireland, the Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament and the Senior Help Line, said there was “a deep sense of worry and insecurity about the future of the old-age pension and other supports”.

Older and Bolder director Patricia Conboy said fears were well-founded.

“Last year, without any warning, the Government cut back on the medical card for over 70s, and earlier this year they imposed a 2 per cent cut in the income of those dependent on the State pension, when they suspended this year’s Christmas bonus.”

The non-contributory pension is €219 per week, while the contributory pension is €230 per week. A 5 per cent cut would mean a loss of €10.95 per week to the non-contributory and €11.50 per week to the contributory pension.

Carrickford said he was “shocked and very annoyed that, once again, it’s the older people who cannot afford it who are going to get hammered”.

“They’ve already taken away the Christmas bonus and they are talking about taking more. It’s absolutely outrageous.”

The Older and Bolder campaign is calling on people to visit their TDs in the last week in November to lobby against cuts and to sign the petition on