Social welfare legislation provides that, for means-tested social assistance schemes, all income and assets belonging to the claimant, and his or her spouse/partner where applicable, is assessable for means testing purposes. Specific disregards apply for certain sources of income. The purpose of the means test is to ensure that resources are directed to those with the greatest need for income supports by the State.
There have been a number of recent improvements in social welfare means testing.
I was pleased to announce in Budget 2019 that the earnings disregard for the One Parent Family and Jobseeker's Transition Payments will increase to €150 per week from next month.
Also, from next month, I am introducing a disregard for maintenance payments for the Working Family Payment scheme for the first time, in line with the disregards that currently apply across most social assistance schemes i.e. a disregard of €95.23 per week, with the remainder assessed at 50%.
Where a person in receipt of disability allowance is engaged in employment, the first €120 per week of earnings is fully disregarded in the means assessment, with earnings between €120 and €350 per week assessed at 50%. The recently enacted Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2018 included the provision to remove the legislative requirement that this employment be of a rehabilitative nature. This provision also applies to the Blind Pension scheme. I was pleased to implement this Make Work Pay recommendation and improve the means testing arrangements for these schemes.
In addition, in recent months, disregards have been introduced for specific payments. This includes any payments made by Sport Ireland under the International Carding Scheme, payments made by the Northern Ireland Victim and Survivor Service in accordance with the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and any ex gratia payments made by the Minister of Health in accordance with recommendations proposed by the Scoping Inquiry into the CervicalCheck Screening Programme. Each of these payments are fully disregarded for social assistance means-testing purposes, and also in relation to qualifying for a increase for a qualified adult payment, and for the Working Family Payment.
As per Section 21 of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018, my Department will review the current means testing arrangements of maintenance payments and lay a report before the Houses of the Oireachtas before the end of June 2019.