Carer’s Benefit and Carer’s Allowance are the two main options available to a parent who want to reduce their hours at work or stop working altogether to become a full-time Carer.
The pros and cons of both benefits need to be analysed before deciding on what option suits your family best. Your child’s development stage should also be considered and when would your son/daughter benefit most from you been able to provide that additional care.
To receive either payment you need to meet a number of criteria such as being in receipt of Domiciliary Care Allowance or Disability Allowance.
Parents in receipt of Carer’s Benefit receive around €210 per week plus a small increase depending on the size of their family. Carer’s Benefit is not Means Tested but is based on your PRSI contribution. Director of companies and parent who are self-employed struggle to gain access to this scheme. Other criteria such as being employed for at least 8-weeks in the previous 26-week period and parents cannot engage in employment for more than 15-hours a week. The maximum a parent can earn during that period is €332 per week.
Parents can receive Carer’s Benefit for up to 104-weeks and it is possible to take it in various blocks of time. From experience, it is often a good idea to hold a few months of Carer’s Benefit for the future when it might be need more (planned operation, transitional in school, school holidays, etc).
If both parents meet the criteria then each can take their 104-weeks but just not at the same time. Recent parents I have been working with have taken extended maternity break and a few parents I helped to take early retirement and combine it with Carer’s Benefit.
If you have a second child with special needs, again you could claim Carer’s Benefit for a further 104-weeks.
The second option is Carer’s Allowance which has similar rules to Carer’s Benefit but is Means Tested. When you apply, your family’s income, savings and assets will be taken into consideration. Parent receive around €210 per week plus a small increase depending on the size of your family but this can be lowered if the family income is more than €663 per week. As parents income is over the €1,000 per month then your application can be rejected.
A major benefit to Carer’s Allowance is that parents can claim it for more than 104-weeks. Once you meet the criteria then you can continue to claim it even when your child is an adult. When you are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance you also qualify for additional entitlements that you won’t receive on Carer’s Benefit such as Household Benefit Package and a Free Travel Pass.
Recent families I have been working with have been transitioning from Domiciliary Care Allowance to Disability Allowance and again because they meet the financial criteria then the parents continue to receive the Carer’s Allowance. Interesting, the vast majority of my parents qualify for Carers Allowance when they retire even if they never received it during their working career.
If you have a second child with special needs, again you could claim an increase in your weekly payment.
The final consideration for parents is the financial impact of reducing hours will have on the family’s current financial position and future pension entitlements. A drop in wages can cause a lot of stress so consider all angles before making a decision. Granted, it is not all about the money and taken a Carers payment can make a huge difference to the quality of life for your family.
Carer’s Support Grant
The Carer’s Support Grant is an annual payment made by the Department of Social Protection to the parents/carers of people with special needs. If you are caring for more than one person, you are entitled to a payment for each person you are caring for.
The Grant has increased from €1,375 (2015 payment) back to the pre-recession level of €1,700 and 2018 Grant was paid on Thursday 7th of June. This payment is tax-free, similar to Domiciliary Care Allowance, but unlike Carers Allowance and Carers Benefit which are both taxable sources of income.
Up to recently, the payment was called the Respite Care Grant but the Department changed the name to better reflect the purpose of the grant as parents assumed you had to spend the grant on respite for their child.
An interesting point to note is you can use the grant in whatever way you wish. It’s not mandatory you get respite care for your child. Most of my families seem to use it towards their summer holidays.
If you are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit or Domiciliary Care Allowance then you will automatically be enrolled for this grant.
Who Else Can Claim?
Over the years I have come across many families who are entitled to this payment but were unaware. The majority of time parents lose out on this payment is when their child transitions from Domiciliary Care Allowance to Disability Allowance then they are no longer entitled to this payment.
However, if one of the parents provides full-time care and is not working outside of the home for more than 15-hrs per week then they may still be entitled to this payment. Because the payment isn’t automatically granted they parents need to complete the application form CSG 1 in respect of each person you are caring for.
Once granted then the Department will send you a letter and a short 2-page questionnaire in April of each year. You must return the completed questionnaire as it will be used to assess your claim for that year.
It is not too late if you just missed out on June payment. You can apply for the 2018 grant at any time from April 2018 up until 31 December 2019.
For more information or the CSG 1 form then you can contact Citizens Information Centre (www.citizensinformation.ie) or the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (www.welfare.ie)
By Allan Cuthbert
Allan Cuthbert’s neice, Laura was born in 2000 with Down syndrome and it was his family’s first introduction into the special needs world. It wasn’t until years later that he realised the financial pressures put on a family of a child with special needs. It shocked him how hard it was for his brother, and so many other parents, to gather information and professional advice, not only on finance but on lots of aspects of their child’s care.
As a result, Allan founded Financial Wellbeing in 2008, a company dedicated to Special Needs Trust Planning with the aim of easing the financial worries of parents who are raising a child with additional needs.
To contact Allan with your queries, you can email email@example.com or call 021 482 3635
Allan also sits on The Down Syndrome Centre’s Advisory Panel as the Financial Planning Expert and will be hosting a Financial Wellbeing Seminar on 15th January 2019 in Newlands Cross, Dublin 22 – to register your interest please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the centre on (01) 661 8000