For many families with an ageing or disabled relative, nursing home care may not be an acceptable option, or indeed an affordable one.
One possible option may be to care for the person at home, be it in your home or their home. Carers may be entitled to financial assistance in the form of Carer's Allowance or Carer's Benefit.
The distinction between the two is that Carer's Allowance is a means-tested payment, while Carers' Benefit is not means-tested and is based on one's recent PRSI payment record.
To qualify for Carer's Allowance you must be living with, or in a position to provide full-time care and attention to the person in need of care, and there is no upper age limit for the carer.
The person being cared for cannot normally live in an institution but you may continue to be regarded as providing full-time care if the person being cared for is undergoing medical or other treatment in a hospital or other institution for a period not longer than 13 weeks.
You must not be engaged in employment, self-employment, training or education courses outside the home for more than 15 hours a week. Certain farming spouses may meet this requirement.
You must also satisfy a means test. The person you are caring for must be over the age of 16 and so incapacitated as to require full-time care and attention, or be under 16 and getting a Domiciliary Care Allowance.
The person receiving care must so incapacitated as to be likely to require full-time care and attention for a period of at least 12 months. If you qualify for a Carer's Allowance, you may also qualify for a free travel pass and the Carer's Support Grant, and also free gas/electricity allowance if you are living with the person you are caring for.
It is worth noting that Carer's Allowance is not taken into account in the assessment for a medical card. If you are providing care to more than one person, you may be entitled to an additional 50pc of the maximum rate of Carer's Allowance each week. The allowance is a taxable source of income and is paid for 12 weeks after the death of the person being cared for. The current rate of payment is set out in the table.
Your means are any income you or your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant have or property, except your home, that could bring in money or provide you with an income. Any payment made by the Department of Social Protection is not taken into account in the means test for Carer's Allowance. Property is assessed on the yearly income derived by that person from it.
This includes a farm of land owned or leased. Means from farming is assessed on the basis of the likely income from the farm in the next 12 months. In most cases, the figures for the last 12 months can be used for this purpose.
Assessed means of up to €332.50 of your gross weekly income is not taken into account in the case of a single person or €665 if you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting.
This amounts to €17,290 per annum in the case of a single person and €34,580 in the case of a couple, which is well in excess of the average non-dairy farm income.
Carer's Benefit differs from Carer's Allowance in that it is not subject to a means test but is subject to the applicant satisfying certain PRSI payment conditions (see table B).
It is a payment made to people over 16 and under 66 who leave the workforce to care for a person(s) in need of full-time care and attention. You can get Carer's Benefit for a total period of 104 weeks for each person being cared for. Carers are allowed to work or engage in training courses outside the home for up to 15 hours per week with a take home pay not exceeding €332.50.
It is worth noting that people have a right to carer's leave from employment, which allows one to leave their employment temporarily for up to 104 weeks to provide full-time care for the person(s) in need of care while also having their job kept open.
People who give up work in order to become a full-time carer may be eligible for Carer's Benefit if they have been employed for at least eight weeks, whether consecutive or not, in the previous 26 week period and have been in employment for a minimum of 16 hours per week or 32 hours per fortnight. The PRSI contribution requirements are set out in the table. The current rate of payment is set out in the table.
Similar to the Carer's Allowanem, the payment is taxable but unlike the allowance, Carer's Benefit is payable for only six weeks following the death of the person being cared for.
Application forms for either scheme can be downloaded from welfare.ie. The completed application form with the relevant certificates should be sent to the Department of Social Protection, Carer's Allowance/Benefit Section, Social Welfare Services Office, Government Buildings, Ballinalee Road, Longford.
CARER'S SUPPORT GRANT
The Carer's Support Grant (formerly called the Respite Care Grant) is automatically paid to people getting Carer's Allowance or Carer's Benefit in June of each year. The rate of grant is €1,700 paid in one sum each year.
Martin O'Sullivan is the author of the ACA Farmers Handbook. He is a partner in O'Sullivan Malone and Company, accountants and registered auditors; som.ie
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The general view that I encounter from farmer clients contemplating a transfer of the farm to a son or daughter is that stamp duty, and possibly gift or inheritance tax, are the main hurdles to be jumped. It's not necessarily so.
In my recent article on the issues of farm succession I promised to revisit this topic at a later date. In this article I will look at the question of the transferor securing or augmenting an income post succession.