The family income supplement, or FIS payment, is designed to provide income for employees on low earnings who have families. The FIS payment preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she was unemployed and claiming other social welfare payments. Some people may believe that taking up employment might only offer a marginal improvement to their income.
The Revised Estimates for my Department provide for expenditure on FIS of nearly €230 million in 2013. There are currently just over 40,440 families benefiting from the FIS scheme. Given that we have discussed this issue on previous occasions, I am happy to inform the Deputy that the processing of all FIS applications, both new and renewed, made to my Department are fully up to date and all backlogs have been eliminated. I have informed the Deputy about all the changes in IT we were implementing.
To qualify for payment, a person must be engaged in full-time, insurable employment, which is expected to last for at least three months, and must be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight, or 19 hours per week. Furthermore, the average family income must be below an income threshold, which varies according to the number of qualifying children in the family.
A comprehensive and easy to understand information booklet and application form are available on the Department’s website. In this regard it should be noted that since 16 January 2013, the date on which the new departmental website was launched, the FIS pages have received almost 40,000 page views, which indicates the strong interest in the scheme.
FIS income thresholds have been maintained at the same level since 2010. Prior to this, FIS income thresholds had risen broadly in line with equivalent social welfare rates so as to maintain their value relative to unemployment payments. A change in FIS income thresholds would have financial implications which would have to be considered in the context of the budget. There are no plans to do so currently. More generally, I recognise that creating jobs and tackling poverty are the key challenges. In this context, FIS plays an important role.