Social welfare legislation provides that, for social assistance schemes such as Disability Allowance, all income and capital (such as savings, investments and property other than the family home) belonging to the claimant and his or her spouse/partner, where applicable, are assessable for means assessment purposes.
If a claimant is married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting, the Department will assess the couple's means when carrying out a means test for a social assistance payment. This is the case even if only one of the couple is actually claiming a payment.
The purpose of the means test is to ensure those individuals and couples with limited or no income or assets receive the most support from the State, while those with higher levels of income or assets provide for their own needs to a greater extent. It is in the nature of means-tested schemes that there is no entitlement to a payment once the means of an individual or couple exceed a given amount.
Disregarding a claimant's partner's income in the means test for Disability Allowance would give rise to a situation where a person with significant household income would have an entitlement to the payment. This would lead to inconsistencies in how the means test is applied across social welfare schemes, and would not be compatible with the overarching policy of ensuring that social welfare expenditure is targeted to those who need it most.
Any changes to the means test for Disability Allowance could have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary and policy context.