Social Assistance payments act as a safety net for people who have insufficient income and who do not qualify for a contributory scheme payment or qualify for a lower weekly payment based on their social insurance record. The application of a means test in the eligibility assessment for a social assistance scheme is to ensure that scarce resources are directed to those in greatest need.
There are over 10,000 customers of the Department in receipt of a UK State pension who are also in receipt of the means-tested State pension non-contributory (SPNC). Under social welfare legislation, in determining an applicant’s eligibility for SPNC, State pension payments from the UK, or from any foreign social security institution, are assessed as income and form part of an overall means assessment of the person concerned, together with any other income(s), assets, savings and investments they may hold.
In processing and reviewing such claims, the Department applies the provisions for currency conversion set out in EU legislation. The currency situation is being kept under review. It is not the policy of the Department, nor is it feasible, that the foreign income element, only, of SPNC means test factors for all persons concerned be reassessed frequently to take account of fluctuations in currency conversion rates and provision has not been made for this. In the event, however, that serious and continuous currency fluctuation should arise, resulting in a significant negative impact for its customers, the Department will consider what steps it may have to take to minimise the possibility of financial hardship.
It is the policy of the Department that any requested review of an SPNC recipient’s payment entitlement will normally involve a full reassessment of their weekly means. Therefore, on the basis of a foreign currency conversion adjustment, a net increase in SPNC payment rate may not necessarily be the outcome when the up-to-date value and means impact of the person’s overall income(s), assets and investments are also taken into account.