Relevant Grants and Supports
When people require assistive technology to help them with their daily living, they often want to know what funding is available to assist with purchasing any equipment. Here we outline the main sources of grants and funding currently available with links to documents on www.citizensinformation.ie.
A Medical Card is issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and allows the holder to receive a range of health services free of charge including the provision of prescribed aids and appliances.
There are now 2 medical card application processes:
- One (Form MC1A) for people aged over 70 whose income is BELOW the €500 (single) and €900 (couple) income limit.
- One (Form MC1) for those aged 18-69, and people aged over 70 whose income is above the limit for a Medical Card/GP Visit Card.
It was announced in Budget 2020 that the medical card weekly income limit for people over 70 will be increased by €50 for a single person (to €550 from €500) and by €150 for a couple (to €1,050 from €900) from July 2020.
If you are over 70, and believe your income may be above the limits, you may still apply to the HSE for a Medical Card under the General Medical Card / GP Visit Card scheme, on the basis that your health circumstances cause undue financial hardship. The General application form MC1 is the appropriate form to complete in this instance.
You can qualify for a Medical Card under the following three main categories:
- Means Test: Single People or Families who have an income that is within certain financial guidelines. You can read more about the Medical Card/GP Visit Card Income Guidelines below.
- Undue Hardship: People whose income is over the financial guidelines, but the HSE decides that the financial burden of medical or other exceptional circumstances would cause undue hardship.
- Automatic: People who are automatically entitled to a Medical Card are: Those with European Union entitlement. Those who are entitled to retain their Medical Card under government schemes.
Private health insurance
If you are not a Medical Card holder but have private health insurance, you should check to see if your policy covers the provision of aids and appliances necessary to assist you with your daily living
Housing adaptation grant for people with a disability
The Housing Adaptation Grant is available where changes need to be made to a home to make it suitable for a person with a physical, sensory or intellectual disability or mental health difficulty to live in. The grant can help you to make changes and adaptations to your home, for example, making it wheelchair-accessible, extending it to create more space, adding a ground-floor bathroom or toilet or a stairlift. This grant is means-tested. It is administered by the local authority.
Mobility aids grant scheme
The Mobility Aids Grant Scheme provides grants for minor works designed to address mobility problems in the home. For example, the grant can be used for the purchase and installation of grab rails, a level access shower, access ramps or a stairlift. This grant is means-tested and the maximum grant available is €6,000. The grant is primarily for older people but people with disability can also access the scheme. It is administered by the local authority.
Seniors Alert Scheme
The Seniors Alert Scheme provides grant support for the supply of equipment to enable older people without sufficient means to continue to live securely in their homes. The grant is towards the purchase and installation of monitored personal alarms. The Scheme is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development via Pobal with equipment made available through community, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations registered with Pobal under the SAS.
Other Supports and Services
This information provides an overview of some of the support services and financial supports that may be available to you.
Carer’s Allowance or Half Rate Carers Allowance
Carer’s Allowance is administered by the Department of Social Protection to people who are looking after someone who is in need of support because of age, physical or learning disability or illness, including mental illness.
Carer’s Allowance is a means-tested payment. It is mainly aimed at carers on low incomes who usually live with and look after certain people who need full-time care and attention. If you are caring for more than one person you may be entitled to an additional 50% of the maximum rate of Carer’s Allowance.
In September 2007, a Half-rate Carer’s Allowance was introduced. This allows people who qualify for certain social welfare payments who are providing full time care to keep that payment and qualify for a half-rate Carer’s Allowance. Carer’s Allowance is not taken into account in the assessment for a medical card.
If you qualify for Carer’s Allowance you may also qualify for free household benefits (if you are living with the person you are caring for) and a Free Travel Pass.
Carers Benefit is a payment made to people who are insured under the Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) system who leave the workforce to care for a person or people in need of full time care. Many of the conditions for payment of Carer’s Benefit are the same as for Carer’s Allowance. However, you must have been employed for at least 8 weeks, whether consecutive or not, in the previous 26 week period. You must be in employment for a minimum of 16 hours per week or 32 hours per fortnight. You also must meet the PRSI contribution conditions to be eligible for the payment.
Carer’s Benefit can be paid for a total period of 104 weeks for each person being cared for. This may be claimed as a single continuous period or in any number of separate periods up to a total of 104 weeks. However, if you claim Carer’s Benefit for less than six consecutive weeks in any given period you must wait for a further six weeks before you can claim Carer’s Benefit to care for the same person again.
The Carers Leave Act 2001 allows employees to leave their employment temporarily to provide full time care for someone in need of full time care and attention. Carer’s leave from employment is unpaid, but the Carer’s Leave Act ensures that those who propose to avail of carers leave will have their jobs kept open for them for the duration of the leave. A Carer may qualify for either Carer’s Benefit or Carer’s Allowance during this period.
Carer’s Support Grant (formerly called Respite Care Grant)
The Carer’s Support Grant is an annual payment made to carers by the Department of Social Protection. It was formerly called the Respite Care Grant. Carers can use the grant in whatever way they wish. You can use the grant to pay for respite care if you wish, but you do not have to do so. The Carer’s Support Grant of €1,700 (June 2020) is paid once each year, usually on the first Thursday in June, for each person you are caring for. It is not taxable.
You can apply for a Carer’s Support Grant for any given year from April of that year until 31 December of the following year. So, for example, you can apply for a grant for 2019 at any time from April 2020 up until 31 December 2021.
The grant is paid automatically by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to people getting Carer’s Allowance (whether full-rate or half-rate), Carer’s Benefit or Domiciliary Care Allowance. Only one Carer’s Support Grant can be paid for each person getting care.
You will not qualify if you work outside the home for more than 18.5 hours per week or if you are in receipt of an unemployment payment or signing on for unemployment credits.
Drug Payment Scheme
Under the Drugs Payment Scheme you pay a maximum of €124 a month (In Budget 2020, it was announced that the monthly maximum will reduce to €114 from September 2020) for approved prescribed drugs, medicines and certain appliances for use by yourself and your family in that month. In order to qualify for this scheme, you must be ordinarily resident in Ireland.
The scheme covers the person who applied, his or her spouse/partner, and children under 18 years or under 23 if in full-time education. A dependent with a physical or mental disability/illness living in the household who does not have a Medical Card and who is unable to fully maintain himself/herself, may be included in the family expenditure regardless of age.
(If you hold a medical card you are already entitled to free medicines and so this scheme is not available to you.)
Free Travel Scheme
The Free Travel Scheme allows you to travel free of charge on all public transport owned by the State. This includes bus, rail and Dublin’s LUAS with some exceptions.
Everyone aged 66 and over, legally living permanently in the State, is entitled to the Free Travel Scheme. Some people under 66 also qualify.
GP Visit Card
If you are over 70 and if your weekly income is below €700 (single person) or €1,400 (married or cohabiting couple) you may qualify for a GP Visit Card. The Application Form for this is Form MC1A (same as Medical Card Application Form for over 70’s).
Household Benefits Package
The Household Benefits Package is a set of allowances which help you with the costs of running your household. It includes allowances towards covering electricity or gas costs as well as the television license. The package is available to everyone aged over 70 and to people under 70 in certain circumstances.
Nursing Home Support Scheme
The Nursing Home Support Scheme is a scheme of financial support for people who need long term nursing care. The scheme will apply to both public and private nursing home places. Under the scheme, every person who needs long term care will make a contribution to the cost of their care and this contribution will be based on their means.
Your local Nursing Home Support Office will provide the application form, answer any queries about the scheme, help complete the application form if needed and provide a list of approved nursing homes for your area.
Supplementary Welfare Allowance
Supplementary Welfare Allowance is administered by Community Welfare Officers in the HSE on behalf of the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection. People with low incomes may qualify for an exceptional needs payment which is a single payment to help meet essential, once off, exceptional costs which the person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. For example, the payments can be made for special clothing for a person who has a serious illness, or costs in relation to funerals.
If you have claimed a social welfare benefit or pension but it has not yet been paid and you have no other income, you may qualify for basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance while you are waiting for your payment. However, the amount paid while you are waiting will be deducted from the arrears of your social welfare payment.
Tax credits and reliefs for carers
Home Carer’s Tax Credit: A Home Carers Tax Credit is a tax credit of up to €1,600 (June 2020) given to married couples or civil partners who are jointly assessed for tax where one spouse or civil partner works in the home caring for a dependent person.
Tax relief for employing a home carer: You can claim tax relief on the cost of employing a carer either if you employ one for yourself or for another family member.