‘We live on less than PUP rate of €350 a week’: call for support for family carers ahead of Budget

Rate of carer’s allowance is €219 per week

Family carer Barbara Kovach and her son Liam

Family carer Barbara Kovach and her son Liam

 

Family carers have called for a rise in weekly payments in the Budget, with many pointing out that the current allowance is over €100 less than the full rate of PUP.

Family Carers Ireland estimate that there are over half a million carers in Ireland. The full rate of the carer’s allowance payment is €219 per week.

Carers also say that the rate of PUP being set at €350 means that the government recognises that €219 per week is not enough to live on.

This combined with no statutory entitlement to respite means many carers are at breaking point, according to Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy at Family Carers Ireland.

“Everyone who works outside the home gets 20 days of annual leave. Yet a family carer, often working 24/7, gets nothing,” says Ms Cox.

Barbara Kovach lives in Cashel, Co Tipperary and she cares full time for her son Liam. Liam is 20 and he has down syndrome and autism.

The rate of PUP was a blow for many carers, says Ms Kovach.

“They (the government) felt that other people couldn’t live on less than €350 per week, but we have to live on less, pandemic or not.”

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Ms Kovach says she doesn’t begrudge anyone who got the PUP, but she wants the government to recognise that she also works extremely hard.

“We are expected to work 24/7 for just €219 per week,” she said.

Ms Kovach said carers kept the hospitals from being overrun during the pandemic by looking after people at home.

“No extra help was given, or even offered. For once, we would like to be recognised without platitudes.”

Liam needs one on one attention, as he is at risk of wandering away. He also has other medical conditions, such as dysphagia, which can create choking incidents.

“There’s no respite whatsoever. Once Liam turned 18, all his respite services ceased. He’s on a waiting list, which is supposed to be two years, but it’s 2021 now.”

In the Family Carers Ireland pre-budget submission, the group are calling on the government to ensure carers get a guaranteed number of days of respite per year.

Ms Cox says it appears that the government takes family carers for granted. “They know carers will not go on strike, they know they will keep caring because they have to, but they cannot do that alone.”

In last year’s budget, €2 million was set aside to deliver a ‘Carers Guarantee’, which aimed to provide services to carers across the country, regardless of where they live.

Ms Cox says this money has still not been spent, and the Department of Health confirmed this to The Irish Times.

“The Department is actively engaging with the HSE and representative groups on this matter to ensure the funding addresses geographical inequities of access to carer supports,” the Department said in a statement.

“The Department is conscious of the significant pressures on family carers and the need to support family carers in their caring roles.”

Family Carers Ireland are also calling for a €150 increase in the Carer’s Support Grant, an €8 rise in weekly carer payments and €5 million in funding to deliver the ‘Carer’s Guarantee’.

Family Carer’s Ireland freephone careline: 1800 24 07 24.