I was pleased to announce a number of changes to the means testing of social welfare schemes as part of Budget 2022. While some of these measures will be brought forward in the Social Welfare Bill, others will be implemented by way of statutory instrument and others relate to non-statutory schemes.
These measures include:
- In recognition of the vital role carers play in society, I am increasing the general weekly income disregard on Carer's Allowance from €332.50 to €350 for a single person, and from €665 to €750 for a couple. This will enable more carers with modest incomes to become eligible for the scheme, and those currently in receipt of a reduced payment may now receive a higher payment.
- I am also increasing the capital disregard from €20,000 to €50,000 for Carer’s Allowance. This will allow carers who have accumulated relatively modest savings, often to provide care for a loved one, without it impacting upon their carer's payment.
- For those with means on Disability Allowance I am increasing the general weekly means disregard from €2.50 to €7.60 which will increase the weekly rate of payment by up to €5 per week, in addition to the general €5 weekly increase in payment rates.
- Currently, Disability Allowance and Blind Pension recipients who are working see the first €140 of weekly earnings fully disregarded, with the remainder between €140 and €350 assessed at 50% and at 100% above €350. I am raising the limit assessed at 50% to €375.
- The income thresholds for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) for two parent households will be applied to lone parents. This measure will enable a greater number of lone parent households to access the BSCFA which assists families with the costs of returning to school.
- Part of the qualification criteria for Fuel Allowance is a means test. The amount of means allowed to qualify is the current maximum rate of State Pension (Contributory) applicable to the household size, plus €100. I am increasing this to €120.
- I am also increasing the income threshold by €10 for Working Family Payment for all families.
- Earlier this year, I introduced a disregard on Disability Allowance that would allow people who were pursing Doctorates to receive scholarship income (to a maximum of €20,000 per year) without it affecting their payment. I am introducing a similar disregard for Blind Pension to allow for equitable treatment of people with disabilities and encourage their educational progression.
- I am also extending the list of agri-environmental schemes that attract a specific disregard on the Farm Assist scheme.
My Department will continue to monitor and review the means assessments for social protection schemes.