People who receive a carers allowance and who do not already have a free GP visit card are due to be given the card next year.

It will apply to carers who do not already qualify for a GP visit card, on means, or age grounds.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said today that tens of thousands of people already in receipt of the card will no longer be subject to review.

He said the estimated cost of this would be around €11m a year and it would require primary legislation to bring it into force.

Minister Harris said he hoped this would be done by the middle of next year.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said it demonstrated that the Government was listening and responding to the carers.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health has said that an extra €10m is to be provided for respite care for people with disabilities.

It said €8m will provide 12 dedicated respite houses around the country, one in each community health area, plus an additional three houses in the greater Dublin area to respond to the high demand.

An additional €2m will be used for measures such as home sharing and extended day services.