The Working Family Payment (WFP) provides in-work income support for low-income employees with children. The payment is designed to preserve the financial incentive to take-up or remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might be marginally better off in employment than on social welfare payments. It also seeks to alleviate child poverty. To qualify for WFP, a person must be engaged in full-time insurable employment which is expected to last for at least 3 months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. The applicant must also have at least one qualified child who normally resides with them or is supported by them. The family income must also be below a specified amount which varies according to the number of qualified children in the family.
In assessing weekly family income for WFP purposes, most weekly social welfare payments are taken into consideration. Budget 2012 contained a measure which provided for the assessment of carer’s benefit and carer’s allowance payments in determining entitlement to WFP. This measure brought the treatment of these two payments for WFP purposes into line with the treatment of all other primary social welfare payments. It also provided for a more consistent approach to the concurrent payment of WFP with other social welfare payments. Moreover, while this measure reduced a person’s secondary payment (WFP) it did so without affecting their primary payment, in this case carer’s benefit and carer’s allowance, therefore targeting available resources at those in most need.
The income disregard and means test for Carer’s Allowance is the most generous within the social welfare system. The amount of weekly earnings disregarded is €332.50 for a single person and €665 for a couple.
Welfare expenditure plays a vital role in protecting the most vulnerable people in Irish society. I am advised that an estimated cost of disregarding carer’s allowance and carer’s benefit in the means assessment of the working family payment is not readily available.
Any changes to the current arrangements regarding any social welfare payment would have expenditure implications, which could only be decided in a budgetary context.