Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 28 Nov 2000

Vol. 526 No. 6

Written Answers. - Employment Support Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin


336 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the proposals he has to deal with the anomaly which exists with regard to rental allowance for those participating in FÁS training compared to those on community employment schemes; and if he has satisfied himself that those on FÁS training courses are now being treated the same as those who are working; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27454/00]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, a weekly supplement may be paid in respect of rent or mortgage interest to people in receipt of social welfare or health board payments.

Entitlement to a supplement is determined by the health boards. Supplements are normally calculated to ensure that the person, after payment of rent or mortgage interest, has an income equal to the rate of SWA appropriate to the family circumstances, less £6. This £6 represents the minimum contribution which clients are required to pay from their own resources.

Applicants are also required to contribute any assessable means in excess of the appropriate basic supplementary welfare allowance rate towards their rent or mortgage interest supplement.

The conditions for retention of rent and mortgage interest supplements, including the income limits and the ceilings on the amounts payable, by participants of employment programmes such as community employment or back to work were reviewed in consultation with the social partners under Partnership 2000.
The main objective was to address poverty and employment traps faced by people making the transition from unemployment to work. Following those discussions, substantial improvements in the conditions for the retention of rent/mortgage interest supplement were introduced on 6 April 2000.
These changes include the abolition of the limit of £250 per month in the amount of supplement that could be retained. The means test was also eased, with the introduction of a disregard of the back to work allowance and family income supplement in the assessment of means for the £250 gross household income limit. PRSI and any reasonable travelling expenses are also disregarded in the means test. Furthermore, support is now provided over four years instead of three years and the withdrawal of the supplement is now tapered at the rate of 75% in year one, 50% in year two, and 25% in years three and four, instead of being withdrawn in one step at the end of the third year.
People participating in FÁS training courses are not covered by these special arrangements. The training courses are short-term and are designed to help people to gain the skills necessary to move into employment. FÁS training allowances are assessed as means for the purpose of determining entitlement to a rent or mortgage supplement. However, from 6 April 2000 a disregard of £25 per week applies in the case of rent or mortgage interest supplement recipients who participate in such an approved training course. During this training period these people will see a real increase in their income of £25 per week.
Following these training courses people may have the option to move into employment via an employment programme such as community employment, back-to-work, or they can take up a full time job under the revenue job assist scheme. These programmes and schemes provide vehicles for the retention of all secondary benefits including rent supplement.
I am satisfied that these initiatives encourage and ease the movement from welfare to work for people who are reliant on rent supplement.