Call for more oversight to prevent ‘financial abuse’ of vulnerable by carers

Report by Sage Advocacy says a small minority of recipients of the carer’s allowance are ‘blatantly abusing’ the system

Greater oversight is needed to prevent the “financial abuse” of some vulnerable people by their carers, according to a new report.

The current carer's allowance system needs to be revamped because "a small minority" of recipients are "blatantly abusing" it, says the report by Sage Advocacy.

Many dedicated family carers who receive the allowance not only provide excellent care but go “above and beyond the call of duty”, according to the support and advocacy service for older people and patients.

However, the report says the current system is susceptible to abuse, with some vulnerable people reluctant to report issues.


The current lack of oversight can lead to the "financial abuse and maltreatment" of people who have been assessed as needing full-time care, says Michael Cahillane, the charity's regional co-ordinator for Kerry and west Cork, who compiled the report.

“We need to move away from the focus on the financial aspect of eligibility for carer’s allowance, and put much more emphasis on the quality of care being actually provided.

“What we have found through our case work is that sometimes very vulnerable people who rely very heavily on the carer, for example because they are a close family relative, are reluctant to complain or report poor quality or non-existent care.’’

In one case highlighted in the report a vulnerable woman was living with her only son, who was spending the allowance “in the pub”. Despite the case being referred to HSE safeguarding services, the woman would not consent to take action, and the son “continued to abuse his mother and the system”.

Another woman collecting the allowance for her mother, who lives alone, “appeared to be too busy or too stressed” to provide care but continued to collect the payment, according to the report.

In a third case a person was receiving the allowance in respect of a parent who had to be admitted to hospital. The parent was found to be in very poor physical condition, malnourished and with little attention having been given to personal hygiene, while medication had not been administer appropriately. However, the carer refused to allow the parent to avail of any local services.

Garda vetting

The State spends about €1.2 billion annually on the allowance, though only one in five of the estimated 375,000 carers in the country receive the payment.

Garda vetting of recipient of the carer’s allowance should be mandatory, the report recommends.

It also calls for the introduction of mandatory standardised regulation, and a monitoring process to be put in place from when it is granted.

It says a proper monitoring and reporting structure should be in place ensuring that a link person is available to the vulnerable persons as required, and a “transparent” complaints process is needed.

A copy of the report has been sent to Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.

Mr Cahillane says the role of the carer in society is set to assume a greater importance as the population ages and demand increases.

“It is vital that we appreciate and support the role of the carer, and put in place a structure to better protect both the care recipient and the care giver.

"The current level of payments is too low to replace an income in a meaningful way – in Sweden, for example, carers are paid a wage equivalent to a regular care worker in the health system.''

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times