My Department provides a range of income supports for persons who are ill or who have a disability. Two of these supports are the illness Benefit (IB) and Invalidity Pension (IP) schemes. In summary these schemes operate as follows:
1. Illness Benefit is a payment made to insured people who are unable to work due to illness and who satisfy certain PRSI contribution conditions. To qualify for Illness Benefit a person must be unable to work due to illness, under the pensionable age and satisfy contribution conditions.
2. Invalidity Pension is a pension paid to people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness. It is based on a claimant's social insurance contributions and is not means tested. To qualify for award of Invalidity Pension a claimant must satisfy both PRSI contribution and medical conditions.
Subject to certain conditions persons in receipt of IB and IP may apply for Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB). IB and IP are the only primary income support payments from which a person may request to move to a PCB payment.
The PCB scheme seeks to extend the welfare system by responding to individual situations where a person in receipt of IB or IP retains some capacity for, and wishes to, undertake some work in the open labour market - while also continuing to require income support from the State. The objective of the scheme is therefore to support such persons to return to the workplace without fear of the loss of their income support. The level of income support provided where a person moves on to PCB is based on a medical assessment of a person’s restriction, regarding their capacity for work.
It is important to note in relation to PCB that:
- participation is voluntary.
- a person who participates on the PCB scheme may return to an Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension payment if, for example, the employment ceases or if the person cannot continue to work.
- a person on the PCB scheme, with an underlying entitlement to Invalidity Pension, will retain their Free Travel Pass for a period of five years.
- there is no requirement that a person must undertake work that is of a ‘rehabilitative or therapeutic’ nature.
- there is no restriction on the number of hours worked.
- there is no restriction on earnings.
PCB has therefore been designed to support persons, in receipt of IB or IP (only), to return to work while also continuing to provide them with income support through the social welfare system. PCB is not designed to provide income support while a person is undertaking an education or training course.
Where a person is not in employment the Department provides a range of supports. These include supports such as the back to education allowance (BTEA) as well as both income supports and employment & vocational guidance and assistance.
Courses available through the springboard initiative are open to persons in employment, persons who are unemployed and ‘returners’. The springboard initiative is delivered by the HEA (see https://springboardcourses.ie/) with eligibility for the courses determined by the HEA and the individual universities and other providers delivering the courses available under the initiative. Persons who are unemployed and in receipt of a related payment, and subject to some conditionality (for example – a person who is unemployed must be in receipt of a payment for nine of the previous 12 months if they wish to participate on the one-year full-time ICT Skills Conversion courses), can access all springboard courses.
People in receipt of IB and IP (subject to some conditionality) are permitted to undertake/participate on training or educational programmes, however, they must seek prior written approval from the Department before commencing any such programme. In addition, (also subject to some conditionality), persons in receipt of IB and IP are eligible for BTEA.
I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.