The Department provides income supports through contributory payments (which are based on a person's social insurance record) and 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 or 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. Various disregards apply across the schemes, reducing the amount of means assessed.
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 assessed at €2 per thousand, with the remainder assessed at €4 per thousand. The first €50,000 of capital is disregarded in the disability allowance means test.
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. The family home is not assessed.
Any proposals to change the capital means assessment for means-tested social assistance schemes would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.