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.
There have been a number of recent improvements in social welfare means testing.
As part of Budget 2019, the earnings disregard for the One Parent Family Payment and Jobseeker's Transitional Payment was increased to €150 per week.
Also, I introduced a disregard for maintenance payments (up to €95.23 per week) for the Working Family Payment scheme, in line with the disregards that currently apply across most social assistance schemes.
Where a person in receipt of disability allowance or blind pension 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 Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018 included the provision to remove the legislative requirement that this employment be of a rehabilitative nature.
In addition, disregards have recently been introduced for specific payments. These include:
- 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;
- any ex-gratia payments made by the Minister of Health in accordance with recommendations proposed by the Scoping Inquiry into the CervicalCheck Screening Programme;
- the Special Transport Grant for Children with Special Education Needs;
- Payments made by Uversity for its Higher Education Scholarships for Adult Learners up to a maximum of €7,000 per annum.
Each of these payments is now fully disregarded for social assistance means-testing purposes.
Any further changes to means testing in the social welfare system would need to be considered in a budgetary context.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.