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. Income and assets include income from employment, self-employment, occupational pensions, maintenance payments as well as property owned (other than the family home) and capital such as savings, shares and other investments.
In this regard, for most social assistance schemes, the first €20,000 of capital 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.
The assessment of capital reflects the fact that there is 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 property to support themselves without having to rely solely on a means tested welfare payment.
In relation to carer's allowance, as the first €332.50 of gross weekly income for single people and the first €665 for couples is disregarded, as well as a general disregard of €7.60 per week, 92% of the approximately 81,000 carer's allowance recipients have their means assessed as zero and less than one per cent would be impacted by raising the capital disregard from €20,000 to €50,000. The estimated cost of this increase is approximately €2.5 million in 2020.
Any proposals to change the capital means assessment for means-tested social assistance schemes would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.