'We did give a lot of thought' - Varadkar rules out pandemic bonus for family carers
The Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, has ruled out a pandemic bonus for family carers.
It comes as he announced the healthcare workers' pandemic bonus would be paid in February or March this year.
The Government on Wednesday (January 19) announced measures to thank the public and frontline workers for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic, including a tax-free payment of €1000.
The one-time payment will be issued to more than 100,000 people, including agency workers contracted by the Health Service Executive (HSE), such as nurses, cleaners, and paramedics, Mr Varadkar confirmed.
However, Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty has claimed there is a “high level of ambiguity” about who is in line to get the cash.
Speaking in the Dáil today (January 20), he said, “The Government haven’t been very clear about this over the last 24 hours,” he told the Dáil today (January 20).
“I would appreciate some clarity in relation to how exactly it will be determined, who will be able to receive the payment, and when they will receive it.”
Deputy Doherty said those who feel “most let down” are family carers, and urged the Tánaiste to thank them financially too.
“Family carers provide care that is very specialised, very intense and very intimate,” he added.
“Of course, they deserve recognition from everybody in this House – but they also deserve more than just a pat on the back or soft words.
“Over the course of the past two years, carers have seen respite curtailed, as well as access to day centres for those they care for.
“As a consequence of all of that, it saved the state money. Their care already saves the state hundreds of millions of euro every single year.
“Family carers do not get the benefit of public holidays. Their role is 24/7.”
But Varadkar ruled family carers out of the bonus, saying it was “very hard” to know where to draw the line.
He said staff working for a private hospital, GP practice, pharmacy, or private swab centres are also being rewarded.
The Fine Gael leader said further information will be provided today regarding the criteria to receive the bonus.
“We did give a lot of thought, a lot of considerations and consultation as well,” Varadkar added.
“We decided that those who would receive this particular additional payment are those who worked in clinical settings, wore masks and gowns everyday, were employees of the State, were exposed to Covid patients every day.
“That’s the criteria, essentially, that we did apply and that’s over 100,000 people.”
He continued: “There are different types of carers. There are HSE carers, there are carers that work for an agency.
“There are family carers who are in receipt of carer’s allowance and carer’s benefits. There are family carers who are not in receipt of those benefits.
“But for home carers employed by the HSE, they will go around to lots of different houses.
“They may have been exposed to dozens or hundreds of people through the course of their work. Family carers would almost always provide that care in their own home, in their own household or perhaps in the household of a close relative.
“So I think there is a difference there.”
The Tánaiste has also said that legislation will need to be changed to ensure the payment is tax-free.
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