The system of social assistance supports provides payments based on an income need. The means test plays a critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency – such as disability, unemployment or caring. This ensures that the recipient has a verifiable income need and that resources are targeted to those who need them most.
By its nature, the means test takes account of the income a person or couple has in terms of cash, property - other than the family home - and capital. It does not take account of a person’s expenditure. In line with most social assistance payments, deductions permitted for disability allowance include PRSI, union dues and superannuation (pension contributions).
Introducing a rent or mortgage disregard for disability allowance would have significant budgetary implications, and would give rise to inconsistencies in how means tests are applied across schemes. It would also significantly increase the complexity of the means assessment.
In relation to means testing, disability allowance has the highest capital disregard of any scheme operated by the Department. A recipient can have up to €50,000 in savings and still receive the full rate of payment. This is compared to €20,000 for most social welfare payments. In addition to this, disability allowance recipients may work and earn up to €120 per week without their payment being affected.
It should also be noted that people receiving disability allowance may also be eligible for secondary benefits such as free travel, fuel allowance, the household benefits package, living alone allowance and the telephone support allowance. Depending on their circumstance, recipients may also be entitled to rent supplement or housing assistance payment, to help meet housing expenses.
Any changes to the means assessment for disability allowance would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.