Carer’s Benefit (€205 per week) is available to parents who give up employment to look after their special needs child. It is not Means Tested, but is based on your PRSI contribution.  You must have been employed for at least 8 weeks in the previous 26 week period. If you take Carer’s Benefit then you must not be engage in employment or education courses for more than 15-hours a week. The maximum you can earn during that period is €324 per week.

Parents can receive this payment for up to 2 years and it is possible to take it in various blocks of time. If you have a second child with special needs, again you could claim Carer’s Benefit for a further 2 years.

Parents often get this payment confused with Carer’s Allowance (€204 per week) which has similar rules to Carer’s Benefit but is Means Tested. When you apply for Carer’s Allowance, your family’s income, savings and assets will be taken in to consideration.  But the major additional advantage Carer’s Allowance has over Carer’s Benefit is that parents can have Carer’s Allowance for more than 2-years. 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.

The most common regret I hear from parents who have taken their 2-years of Carer’s Benefit is they wished they would of held back a proportion of the time allocation. The main reason parent cite is that as their child gets older, or is transitioning in to school or has an operation scheduled then they wish they were able to use the Carer’s Benefit then.

The final consideration is the financial impact of reducing your hour will have on your current income and future pension entitlements. A drop in wages can cause a lot of stress if parent start to struggle to pay their bills so consider all angles.

This article was prepared by Allan Cuthbert, a Special Needs Trust Planner. If you have a financial question, feel free to email or call 021 482 3635.