Subject to certain conditions the supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for the payment of rent supplement to eligible people whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs. Supplementary welfare allowance is not normally payable to people who are engaged in full-time employment. However, arrangements have been in place for a number of years which allow people to retain a portion of their rent supplement where they take up employment through approved schemes, such as community employment, subject to a weekly household income limit of €317.43.
A number of improvements in the rules governing the retention of rent supplement have been made in recent years. The period for which rent supplement may be retained has been extended to four years on a tapered basis i.e. 75% in year one, 50% in year two and 25% in years three and four. In addition, the upper limit of €317.43 per month on the amount of supplement payable was abolished for people on the approved schemes.
Furthermore, back to work allowance and family income supplement, in cases where one or both of these are in payment, are now disregarded in the assessment of the €317.43 weekly income limit. PRSI and reasonable travelling expenses are also disregarded in the means test.
A participant in community employment may opt to be assessed in accordance with the tapered withdrawal system or standard supplementary welfare allowance rules and will be entitled to whichever option is more beneficial.
Under standard assessment rules, rent supplements are calculated to ensure that an eligible person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution of €13, which each recipient is required to pay from his or her own resources. Up to €50 in respect of additional income from part-time employment is disregarded in the means test thus ensuring that a person is better off as a result of taking up such an opportunity. Community employment is regarded as part-time employment for these purposes.
The Northern Area Health Board was contacted regarding this particular case and has advised that, following her commencement on the community employment scheme, the level of the person's household income exceeded the €317.43 limit applicable to the tapered withdrawal system and accordingly the amount of rent supplement payable was calculated in accordance with standard supplementary welfare allowance rules.
The board has confirmed that the person concerned is in receipt of the appropriate rate of rent supplement for her circumstances. She has €65.00 per week more disposable income as a result of participating in the community employment scheme.