My Department commissioned Indecon International Consultants to carry out research into the cost of disability in Ireland. The Programme for Government commits the Government to use this research into the cost of disability to individuals and families to properly inform the direction of future policy.
This matter is significantly wider than my Department’s income support system which is why a whole-of-Government perspective must be taken. There is not a single typical ‘cost of disability’, rather there is a spectrum from low additional costs to extremely high extra costs of disability, depending on the individual circumstances of the person with a disability. Additional costs of disability go across a number of areas of expenditure including housing; equipment, aids and appliances; mobility, transport and communications; medicines; care and assistance services and additional living expenses.
The report has been received and my Department has been considering it in detail. As part of this consideration, the Department briefed and sought the views of relevant Government departments which have a role to play in the delivery of disability services and supports. This process is now complete, and I intend to submit the report to Government for consideration shortly.
Social welfare legislation provides that, for social assistance schemes, 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.
The means test plays a critical role in determining whether an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency – such as disability, unemployment or caring.
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. This is not exclusive to Disability Allowance and applies to all of the Department's social assistance schemes.
Legislation provides for an income disregard in respect of spousal earnings. Where the spouse/civil partner/cohabitant is engaged in insurable employment a disregard of €20 per day applies subject to a maximum of €60 per week, and the balance is assessed at 60%. In all other cases the balance is assessed at 100%. The disregard of €20 per day only applies to insurable employment.
From June 2022 the general means disregard for recipients of Disability Allowance will increase from €2.50 to €7.60 per week. Together with the €5 increase to the personal rate of payment and €3.30 increase for qualified adults from January 2022, this will mean that a claimant living with their spouse or partner with weekly household means of up to €350.10, or a single applicant with means of up to €212.60 will be entitled to a minimum payment.
The capital assessment formula applying to Disability Allowance has also been unique in the social welfare system, in that the first €50,000 is fully disregarded; the next €10,000 assessed at €1 per thousand, the next €10,000 is assessed at €2 per thousand, with the remainder assessed at €4 per thousand.
Any changes to the means assessment criteria for Disability Allowance would need to be considered in an overall budgetary and policy context.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.