The system of social assistance supports provide 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 - be that illness, disability, unemployment or caring.
The application of a means test not only ensures that the recipient has an income need but also that the resources are targeted to those with the greatest need.
While property is assessed as part of the means test, the family home is never included in this assessment, regardless of value.The capital value of property other than the family home is assessed, whether or not it is providing an income to the claimant. Where the property is rented, rental income is not taken into account, and the property continues to be assessed on a capital basis.The formula for assessing the value of capital or property for an individual for most social welfare schemes is as follows: the first €20,000 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 exceptions to the formula above are Disability Allowance (and Carer's Allowance from June 2022), where the first €50,000 of capital is not taken into account, Supplementary Welfare Allowance, where the first €5,000 is not taken into account, and the Working Family Payment, where capital is not taken into account at all.
Exempting property, other than the family home, valued at under €300,000 would be contrary to the general aim of the means test which is to ensure that people with reasonable amounts of capital or property are in a position to use that capital, or to realise the value of property, to meet some of their living costs without having to rely solely on a means tested welfare payment.