Social welfare legislation provides that all income and assets belonging to the claimant and his or her spouse, partner or cohabitant are assessable for social welfare means testing purposes.
Where a person is informally separated, and living apart from their spouse or civil partner, social welfare inspectors have a key role in investigating and advising the Department’s deciding officers on whether a couple are separated for means testing purposes. In this regard, no single criterion can necessarily support a decision that a couple are separated or not. The criteria for assessment include, but are not limited to:
- whether they share financially as a couple;
- whether the separation is temporary or long-term;
- whether there is an expectation of living together again shortly;
- whether the marriage or civil partnership remains unbroken.
If the deciding officer considers the couple to be separated, then the earnings of the spouse or civil partner would not be included in the means assessment. Any maintenance payments (including the payment of rent/mortgage) would then be assessable.
On several schemes there is a maintenance disregard in respect of housing costs. Jobseeker’s Allowance, One-Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, State Pension (Non-Contributory), Blind Pension, Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension and, as of Budget 2019, Working Family Payment all have a maintenance disregard in place. For these schemes, housing costs of up to €95.23 per week are disregarded, and 50% of any maintenance above this is assessed as means.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy .