Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The Government has provided over €47 million for the ENP scheme in 2013.
ENPs are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the SWA scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.
A review of the guidelines on exceptional needs payments was carried out for the Department by a working group made up of community welfare service staff. One of the recommendations emanating from this review was to address the different approaches taken, in different areas in relation to the payment of ENPs. The 2013 guidelines that issued to staff made recommendations in relation to the maximum amounts payable for a number of items including kitchen appliances and household furniture. ENPs in respect of these items are still payable within the maximum amounts set.