My Department’s main social welfare schemes for people who are unemployed are the means tested jobseeker’s allowance (JA) and the social insurance contribution based jobseeker's benefit (JB). The 2019 Estimates for my Department provide for expenditure this year on the jobseeker’s schemes of €1.95 billion.
The JA scheme is available to all jobseekers including employees and those in self-employment. A self-employed person may qualify for JA if their business ceases or if they are on a low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their business. They also have access to employment supports available to other JA recipients.
In assessing means from self-employment, income from the previous twelve months is used as an indicator of likely future earnings. Given the variety of self-employment situations, the means assessment procedures are applied in a flexible manner to ensure that any circumstances that would be likely to lead to a significant variation, either upward or downward, in the level of a person’s income from one year to the next are taken into consideration. The income from self-employment is generally taken to be the gross profit less allowable work related expenses such as travel, lighting, heating, motor running costs applicable to the business. In the case of a single person, if the weekly means exceeds the weekly JA scheduled rate which is currently €203 there is no entitlement to JA. If the weekly means is less than the scheduled JA rate the weekly entitlement for the claimant is the maximum weekly rate of payment for the person less the means calculated.
When a person applies for a jobseeker’s payment they must declare that they are available for and genuinely seeking work but unable to find work, which is known as ‘signing on.’ Most Intreo centres and branch offices have a monthly signing arrangement and the jobseeker will be given a date and time to sign. Alternative arrangements may be made if the date or time is not suitable subject to agreement by the Intreo Centre/Branch Office.
The new scheme for self-employed people, which I announced as part of the 2019 Budget measures, will extend a social insurance contribution based benefit to those who lose their self-employment. This scheme will be introduced in November 2019 and builds on other significant improvements for self-employed people in recent years such as access to invalidity pension and treatment benefits in 2017. This measure is part of the Government’s stated aim of creating a supportive environment for entrepreneurship, including providing an income safety net to employees and self-employed people alike.
I trust that this clarifies the matter and if the Deputy has a particular case of a self-employed person he should forward the details to my Department for review of the individual circumstances.