Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (404)

Thomas P. Broughan


404. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the exemption of home help income earned from the Health Service Executive prior to Budget 2012; if a person was assessed for a social welfare payment prior to Budget 2012 and if their HSE home help income was included in this assessment are they eligible to apply for arrears; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8217/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

As part of Budget 2012, the Government decided that, with effect from January 2012, income from employment by the HSE or a body funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) as a home help would be assessed, for means testing purposes, in the same way as income from any other type of employment, where this was not already the case.

The new arrangements replaced a range of means testing arrangements which had been applied to income as a home help on a non-statutory basis in relation to certain schemes. These administrative arrangements were initially introduced to encourage persons to take up employment as a home help at a time when the remuneration from such employment was low. This is no longer the case as the status and salary levels were formalised in 2000. As the salary scale is now well ahead of the national minimum wage, there was no longer a basis for this special treatment. The change advanced the objective of treating all income in the same way for means testing purposes with no special arrangements depending on the type of employment.

Since January 2012, persons working as a home help benefit from the standard earnings disregards and tapering arrangements which apply to the assessment of earnings. These vary across schemes and the current arrangements are now outlined in the case of one parent family payment, jobseeker’s allowance and disability allowance:

- One-parent family payment: the first €110 is disregarded in full and amounts between €110 and €425 are assessed at 50%.

- Jobseeker’s allowance: the first €20 per day, subject to a maximum of €60 per week, is disregarded in full and 60% of the balance assessed.

- Disability allowance: the first €120 per week of earnings from a rehabilitative nature is disregarded, any balance between €120 per week and €350 per week is assessed at 50% and any remaining balance is assessed in full.

Where the spouse/partner of a jobseeker’s or disability allowance recipient is in employment the first €20 per day of his or her earnings, subject to a maximum of €60 per week, is disregarded in full and 60% of the balance assessed.

The arrangements which applied in relation to the assessment of home help earnings prior to January 2012 varied across schemes. For example, the treatment of the earnings of a qualified adult as a home help varied in the case of disability allowance and jobseeker’s allowance; it was disregarded in full in the case of disability allowance and assessed in the same way as all other earnings in the case of jobseeker’s allowance.

Disability allowance was introduced in 1996 and replaced the Disabled Person's Maintenance Allowance (DPMA) which had been administered by the Health Boards. In the case of the latter scheme, earnings arising from the employment of a claimant’s spouse/partner as a home help were disregarded if full. These arrangements were continued in the Department of Social Protection, on a non-statutory administrative basis until the change outlined above was introduced in January 2012.

If a person feels that the assessment procedures outlined above were not correctly applied to their claim before or after January 2012, they may request their local social welfare office to review their claim. If it is established that their means were incorrectly assessed, any arrears due to them will be paid.