The Department operates a range of means-tested social assistance payments. Social welfare legislation provides that the means test takes account of the income and assets of the person (and spouse / partner, if applicable) applying for the relevant scheme.
The assessment of capital reflects an expectation that people with reasonable amounts of capital and property are in a position to use that capital, or to realise the value of the property, to support themselves without having to rely solely on a means-tested welfare payment.
Disability allowance has the most generous capital disregard of any scheme operated by the Department. A recipient can have up to €50,000 in savings and still receive the full rate of payment.
This is compared to €20,000 for most social welfare payments. A recipient can also have about €112,000 means from capital and still claim the minimum rate of disability allowance.
People receiving disability allowance may also be eligible for secondary benefits such as free travel, fuel allowance, the household benefits package, living alone allowance and the telephone support allowance.
In addition, disability allowance recipients may also work and earn up to €120 per week without their payment being affected.
Data regarding capital means tests for disability allowance customers is available from 2012 onwards, which covers 70% of current customers. Of these customers, about one fifth have capital. Of those that have capital, 98% of customers have means below €50,000 which results in no means being assessed. Less than one per cent of the disability allowance customers analysed are impacted by the capital means test and, of these, the average amount assessed as means is €49.
Any proposals to change the capital means assessment for means-tested social assistance schemes would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.