Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

477 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will issue new rules in relation to those social welfare recipients renting out part of their own home in order that they can be treated similarly to those who benefit from the new £6,000 tax credit given to taxpayers, so that this income would not be counted in calculating their payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8206/01]

The various weekly social welfare payments can be broadly divided into two main categories, social insurance payments and means-tested social assistance payments. As social insurance payments are not subject to a means test, any income a claimant may have, including income from renting out a room, would not affect their entitlement to payment.

In the case of the social assistance payments, provision already exists to cater for pensioners who rent out a room in their home. For example, in the case of the old age and widow/er's, non-contributory, pension schemes any income received in respect of rent from a person who lives with the pensioner is disregarded for means test purposes where, apart from that person, the pensioner lives alone. In the case of an old age pensioner couple, only half of any income which they have is assessed for means test purposes.

In addition, in the case of the carer's allowance scheme a single claimant can have weekly income of up to £75 disregarded for means test purposes, while a couple can have up to £150 disregarded.

These weekly amounts, which apply to all income, including rental income, are being increased to £125 and £250 respectively, with effect from April 2001.

As the value of the new tax allowance will amount to between £23 and £48.50 a week, depending on the tax rate a person is on, it will be seen therefore, that the existing means disregards which apply under the social welfare code are more favourable.
Any further changes in the means-testing arrangements in relation to the assessment of rental income would have cost implications and would, therefore, have to be considered in a budgetary context.