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Section 1 - Social Welfare Payments Explained

This section outlines the various types of social welfare payments, including social insurance and social assistance payments.

It also explains:

� how to qualify for social welfare payments,

� who dependants are,

� how payments are made,

� various means tests,

and

� how claims are decided.

It also gives information on the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

 

Contents

1.1 Types of payments

1.2 Increases in payments for qualified adults and children

1.3 Special arrangements

1.4 How payments are made

1.5 Qualifying for social insurance payments

1.6 Qualifying for social assistance payments

1.7 Recovery of social welfare overpayments

1.8 Social Welfare Appeals Office

Return to Main Table of Contents


1.1 Types of payments

Social welfare payments are broadly divided into three types:

  • Contributory payments are based on your Pay-Related Social Insurance ( PRSI) record. Whether you qualify for a payment depends on you having a certain number of PRSI contributions.
  • Non-contributory payments require you to satisfy a means test and be habitually resident in the State.
  • Payments and benefits, such as Child Benefit and Free Travel, do not depend on PRSI contributions or means.

Anyone can apply for a social welfare payment in their own right if they satisfy all the conditions for the payment. Apart from your PRSI record or means test, other conditions can apply. For example, if you are claiming a jobseeker's payment you must also be capable of work, available for and genuinely seeking work.

You must tell the Department about any change in your situation that may affect whether you qualify for a social welfare payment. Examples include your spouse or partner taking up work or you changing your address.

How we decide on applications

Deciding Officers of the Department of Social and Family Affairs make decisions on applications for the majority of payments. If you consider that a decision on your application is incorrect, it is open to you to send any further documentary evidence that you think is relevant to your case to the Department and the decision will be reviewed by the Deciding Officer.

If you are not satisfied with the Deciding Officer's decision (either before or after seeking a review by a Deciding Officer), you may, in general, appeal it to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office. ( See Section 1.8 for details about the Social Welfare Appeals Office).

Officers of the regional Health Service Executive make decisions on applications for Supplementary Welfare Allowance. You have the right to appeal most decisions by these officers. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of an appeal, you may tell the Health Service Executive that you wish to have your application decided by an independent Appeals Officer.

Rates of payment

The amounts of all social welfare payments are shown in the Rates of Payment booklet SW 19.

Normally, you may claim only one basic payment at any one time but there are a few exceptions to this rule, for example a widow or widower or a lone parent may qualify for Illness or Jobseeker's Benefit at half the personal rate for a limited time at the same time as their main payment.

Since 27th September 2007 people who are in receipt of certain other social welfare payments and who are providing full time care and attention to a person may be able to retain their main welfare payments and receive a half-rate Carer's Allowance (subject to a means test).

1.2 Increases in payments for qualified adults and children

Most weekly payments are made up of a personal rate for you and extra amounts for your spouse or partner and any child.

Increase for a Qualified Adult

If you have a spouse or partner you may receive an Increase for a Qualified Adult (IQA). If you are divorced or separated and you are supporting your former spouse, you may claim an increase in your payment for them if:

  • you are paying them a certain amount of maintenance a week,
  • they are not living with someone as husband and wife, and
  • their income does not exceed certain limits.

If your spouse's or partner's sole income is from one of the following social welfare or Health Service Executive payments, they may be considered a Qualified Adult:

  • Child Benefit,
  • Disablement Benefit,
  • Domiciliary Care Allowance,
  • Foster Care Allowance,
  • Occupational Injuries Death Benefit in respect of an Orphan,
  • Guardian's Payment (Contributory),
  • Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory), or
  • Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

Note:
If you claim an Increase for a Qualified Adult with State Pension (Transition), State Pension (Contributory) and State Pension (Non Contributory) after the 24th September 2007, the increase will be paid:

  1. directly to your spouse/partner, or
  2. to a person nominated by the spouse or partner to receive the increase for them.

An Increase for a Qualified Adult may be paid where you are single, widowed, separated or divorced and a person has the care of your child(ren) and you are wholly and mainly maintaining them, if they:

  • are age 16 or over,
  • are living in your household, and
  • do not have a weekly income of more than �100; a reduced rate is payable where qualified adults have income between �100 and �300 a week 

If you are separated or divorced, an increase for such a person will not be paid if you are being wholly or mainly maintained by your spouse or you are wholly or mainly maintaining them.

Only one increase for a qualified adult is payable on your claim.
 

Increase for a Qualified Adult - Jobseeker�s Allowance, Farm
Assist, Pre-Retirement Allowance and Disability Allowance

Since 26 September 2007, in the case of Jobseeker�s Allowance, Farm Assist, Pre-Retirement Allowance and Disability Allowance, a family rate less means applies where the spouse or partner of the customer does not have a social welfare payment in their own right. The family rate is based on a personal rate, a full qualified adult rate and full child dependant allowance rate less means. If the customer has a spouse or partner in insurable employment, a disregard of �20.00 a day applies to the spouse or partner for a maximum of 3 days a week (maximum �60.00 a week) and the balance is assessed at 60%.

If the customer was in receipt of a higher rate of payment on 26 September 2007 than he or she would have been entitled to under the means assessment arrangements that came into effect on that date, their rate of payment is preserved at the pre 26 September 2007 rate.However, should their payment stop for a consecutive period of 4 weeks after 26 September 2007, the saver clause no longer applies and upon reapplication for payment of Jobseeker�s Allowance, Pre-Retirement Allowance, Disability Allowance or Farm Assist, they will be reassessed using the means assessment arrangements applying past 26 September 2007.

For Jobseeker�s Allowance, Pre-Retirement Allowance and Farm Assist, special provisions apply to a customer who breaks their claim in the period between 29 August 2007 and 24 October 2007. They may benefit from the saver even if they break their claim more than once or for more than four weeks within that period. The deciding factor here is whether they have entitlement in respect of at least a day in both the four weeks prior and the four weeks post 26th September 2007.

Increase for a Qualified Adult - other schemes

If a qualified adult�s income exceeds �100 a week but is less than �300 a week, a reduced rate of Increase for a Qualified Adult is payable with the following payments:

  •  Illness Benefit,
  • Jobseeker�s Benefit,
  • Incapacity Supplement,
  • Occupational Injury Benefit,
  • Invalidity Pension,
  • State Pension (Contributory),
  • State Pension (Transition).

You will not get an increase if they

� have earnings or income of more than �300,

or

� are entitled to or getting:

  • a social welfare payment including Family Income Supplement in their own right [other than Disablement Benefit, Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA), Child Benefit, Widowed Parent Grant, Occupational Injuries, Death Benefit in respect of an Orphan, Guardian�s Payment (Contributory) or Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory)],

or

  •  an Infectious Diseases Maintenance Allowance (IDMA),

or

  • an allowance for participation in the following schemes:
  •  full-time F�S non-craft training course,
  • VTOS course,
  • Back to Education Allowance,
  • Back to Work Allowance,
  • Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, or
  • Part-time Job Incentive.

or

  • are disqualified from getting jobseeker�s payments because
    of a trade dispute, unless you were getting an Increase for a
    Qualified Adult prior to the dispute.

In some cases you may be disqualified from receiving an Increase for a Qualified Adult where your spouse is not in Ireland. However, EU Regulations may assist in such cases where you are claiming a
contributory payment.

Note:
Where your spouse or partner earns over the limit (currently �100.00 per week) but less than a specified amount (currently �300.00 per week), you will continue to get an increase at a reduced rate. (See
SW 19 for more information on reduced rates of payment for the increase for qualified adult).

Increase for a Qualified Child

Most social welfare payments provide for an increase in respect of qualified children.

You may receive an increase for each qualified child who:

  • is ordinarily resident in the State (See Section 3, Benefits Abroad concerning impact of EU Regulations),
  • is not detained in a reformatory or an industrial school,
  • normally lives with you,

    and is either;
  • under 18 years of age,

    or
  • is 18 years and up to age 22 and attending a full-time second-level day course of study, instruction or training at an institute of education, or
  • is 18 years and up to age 22 and attending a full-time day course of education at an institute of education - this does not apply if you are claiming Illness Benefit, Health and Safety Benefit, Jobseeker's Benefit or Allowance, Disablement Pension (Incapacity Supplement), Injury Benefit or a combination of these payments or certain other social welfare payments [excluding State Pension (Contributory) or State Pension (Non-Contributory) and Child Benefit] for less than 156 days.

If EU legislation or a bilateral social security agreement between Ireland and another country applies to your claim then it is generally not necessary for the child to be ordinarily resident in Ireland.

In certain circumstances a child who is not living with you can also be regarded as a qualified child if you are substantially maintaining them.

A qualified child increase is payable after your child reaches age 18:

  • for 3 months immediately after leaving second level education or finishing the Leaving Certificate Examination, whichever is later,
  • until the following 30 June or until they complete their full-time second-level day course, whichever is the earlier, or
  • for the summer holiday period (where this begins between 1 May and 30 June) up to and including the following 1 September. Payment will not continue until 1 September where your child completes the Leaving Certificate examination or finishes second level education.

If your child reaches age 22 during an academic year while attending a full-time day course of education, they continue to be regarded as your qualified child up to the end of that academic year provided they continue to receive full-time education.

A qualified child increase is not generally payable where your child is attending a course of training or instruction:

  • provided by F�S and is getting an allowance,
  • which arises from employment or forms part of an employment or work experience programme,
  • which includes a period of paid work experience during an academic year which is greater than the time spent receiving instruction or tuition at an institute of education, or
  • a period of work experience which is part of a Teagasc approved course where the period spent on work experience during the academic year is greater than the time spent receiving instruction or tuition at an institute of education.

A qualified child increase may be payable while a child is attending YOUTHREACH.

You will not get an increase for a child if they are getting:

  • a social welfare payment (except Disablement Pension) or Supplementary Welfare Allowance, or
  • Infectious Diseases Maintenance Allowance (IDMA) from the Health Service Executive.

Your child will be regarded as continuing to attend a full-time day course of education:

  1. for periods during an academic year when the provision of education is interrupted owing to a strike or holidays,
  2. for the summer holiday period (where this begins between 1 May and 30 June) up to and including the third Sunday of the following October or an earlier date if you wish. Payment will not continue until October where your child completes the final year of their course (other than the Leaving Certificate examination) and finishes attending the institute of education.

Children are usually regarded as dependants of both parents if they normally live with both parents. Each parent can claim an Increase for a Qualified Child if you are married and both you and your spouse are getting a social welfare payment in your own right.

Only one increase will be paid in respect of each child. Half the rate of the increase for the qualified child will be paid to each of you. This also applies in the case of a couple who are not married to each other but are living together as husband and wife.

If you are living with your spouse or partner as husband and wife and they are not a qualified adult, a half-rate Increase for a Qualified Child will be paid. However, if you are claiming Jobseeker's Benefit, Illness Benefit, Health & Safety Benefit, Injury Benefit or Disablement Pension (Incapacity Supplement), no Increase for a Qualified Child will be paid if your spouse�s or partner's income is in excess of a certain limit, currently �400 a week.

1.3 Special arrangements

Sometimes, special arrangements can be made to pay a portion of the weekly social welfare payment directly to the spouse or partner. If you or your spouse or partner has a difficulty, contact the section of the Department dealing with your particular payment.

1.4 How payments are made

We make payments in different forms for the various social welfare
schemes:

� Direct payments are lodged directly to an account in a financial
institution, meaning that:

  • you get your payment into your account on the day of payment,
  • you can access your payment at a time and place that suits you
  • you do not have to face any queues or delays to collect your
    payment.

Your dealings with your financial institution remain confidential. We
have no access to your account details.

� Payments are made using a Social Services Card each week at a
chosen post office.

� Cheque payments are posted directly to you.

You should contact your local Social Welfare Office for full information on the payment method available for each scheme.

1.5 Qualifying for social insurance payments

You need enough PRSI paid or credited contributions at the correct rate or class to qualify for social insurance payments. Details of PRSI contribution rates and the benefits covered are shown in the SW 14 which is available on the Department's website.

In terms of having enough PRSI contributions, you must show that you have:

  • a minimum number of PRSI contributions paid at any time during your working life, and
  • a minimum number of PRSI contributions paid or credited in the relevant tax year (see Section 2.8 for details about PRSI 'credits').

These conditions vary depending on the payment for which you are claiming.

The relevant tax year is generally the second last complete tax year before the Benefit Year in which you claim.

The Benefit Year begins on the first Monday in January each year.

For a claim made in Benefit Year:

Relevant Tax Year is:

2008

2006

2009

2007

Since April 1994, if you left the workforce to provide full-time care and attention for a child or a person who is ill, we disregard the years spent providing care when we work out the yearly average number of PRSI contributions for State Pension (Contributory).

To benefit from this scheme (the Homemaker's Scheme), you must have worked and paid PRSI previously at Class A, E, H or S. See Section 4.3 or booklet SW 1 for further information.

What happens if I don't have enough PRSI contributions?

You will not qualify for benefits if you do not have enough PRSI contributions on your record. You should:

  • make sure you have a PPS No. and that your employer knows your number so that your PRSI contributions can be added to your record,
  • send in an application for the periods you are out of work because of illness or unemployment to help keep your record up-to-date with the award of credits (see Section 2.8 for details about credits),
  • consider paying voluntary PRSI contributions if you leave the workforce for a time (see Section 2.7 for details about voluntary contributions), and
  • if you are self-employed, make sure you pay your full contributions, or you will not get any contributions for the year.

If you do not qualify for a social insurance payment, you may be entitled to a social assistance payment instead.

1.6 Qualifying for social assistance payments

If you do not qualify for a social insurance payment or have used up your entitlement, you may qualify for a social assistance payment instead.

To qualify for this type of payment, generally, you must be habitually resident in Ireland. You must also satisfy a means test. This is a way of checking if you have enough means to support yourself and deciding what amount of payment, if any, you may qualify for. Your means are any income belonging to you or your spouse or partner. This includes property (except your family home) or an asset that can provide you with an income. For certain payments, for example, Jobseeker's Allowance, the value of benefits and privileges such as free board and lodging is regarded as means if you are under 25 years of age.

Your weekly rate of payment depends on the amount of means we assess in the means test.

Means test

A means test is used for the following payments:

  • State Pension (Non-Contributory),
  • Carer's Allowance,
  • One-Parent Family Payment,
  • Widow's or Widower's Non-Contributory Pension,
  • Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory),
  • Jobseeker's Allowance,
  • Farm Assist,
  • Blind Pension,
  • Disability Allowance,
  • Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) 1,
  • Rent Allowance for Tenants affected by the De-control of Rents.

1 A Community Welfare Officer from your regional office of the Health Service Executive will work out your means in the case of Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

When you apply for a means-tested payment, a Social Welfare Inspector will ask for details of your means. The Inspector may do this at your local Social Welfare Office or may call to you at your home. The Inspector may ask you to produce documents such as accounts or statements from your financial institution.

A decision on your means is made by a separate Deciding Officer.

What counts as means?

The main items that count as means are:

  • cash income,
  • income from employment or self-employment,
  • the value of any property you have (except your own home),
  • the value of any savings and investments, and
  • the value of any benefits and privileges such as board and lodging, but only for Jobseeker's Allowance if you are aged between 18 and 25.

Note:
For Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory), the items listed are only counted where they belong to the orphan
.

If you are married and living with your spouse or if you are cohabiting (living with someone as husband and wife), we may take into account the means of your spouse or partner in the means assessment.

You can get more information on means tests throughout this book under the sections dealing with the payments listed above. If you need further information, contact the office dealing with your claim.

Working out your own means is difficult. You should apply if you think you may qualify for any of the means-tested payments.

Habitual Residence Condition

Habitual Residence is a condition you must satisfy in order to qualify for certain social assistance payments and Child Benefit. This condition exists since 1 May 2004 and affects all applicants, regardless of nationality.

You must satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition for:

  • Jobseeker's Allowance,
  • State Pension (Non-Contributory),
  • Blind Pension,
  • Widow's or Widower's Non-Contributory Pension,
  • Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory),
  • One-Parent Family Payment,
  • Carer's Allowance,
  • Disability Allowance,
  • Supplementary Welfare Allowance (other than once-off exceptional and urgent needs payments), and
  • Child Benefit.

Habitual residence means you have a proven close link to Ireland or other parts of the Common Travel Area. For example, if you have lived in Ireland all of your life, you will likely satisfy the Habitual Residence condition.

The most important factors for providing this link are:

  • length and continuity of residence in Ireland or elsewhere,
  • the length and purpose of any absence from Ireland,
  • nature and pattern of employment,
  • main centre of interest,
  • future intentions.

Note:
The Common Travel Area is Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

You can spend brief periods on short holidays, studying or travelling outside of the Common Travel Area and still be regarded as habitually resident here.

You can get information on the Habitual Residence Condition from your local Social Welfare Office or you can write to:

HRC Section
Department of Social and Family Affairs
Floor 2
Landen House
157-164 Townsend Street
Dublin 2

Telephone: (01) 673 2041

For further details see information booklet SW 108 or contact HRC Section at the address above.

1.7 Recovery of social welfare overpayments

If you have been overpaid the Department must make every effort to recover the overpayment.

We will let you know if you have been overpaid and tell you the reasons for the overpayment and the amount involved. We will outline how we propose to recover the money overpaid.

You will be invited to give us any details which you consider relevant to the overpayment, the repayment of the overpayment and to the method of repayment.

In determining the method and amount of the repayment we will consider the amount of and the reasons for the overpayment as well as your ability to repay it. Any repayments should be affordable and where necessary we can defer, suspend or reduce the repayment.

1.8 Social Welfare Appeals Office

The Appeals Office operates independently of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. It is headed by the Chief Appeals Officer.

If you disagree with the decision of the Deciding Officer concerning your payment or benefit, you have the right to appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

When should I appeal?

You should appeal within 21 days of being told the decision on your application. In exceptional cases, the Chief Appeals Officer may accept appeals received outside this period.

How do I appeal?

You can appeal by completing form SWAO 1, which you can get at your local Social Welfare Office, or you may set out the reasons for your appeal in a letter. Either way you should set out your case fully. Make sure that you state your name, address and your Personal Public Service Number (previously known as RSI number).

Where do I send the Appeal

Your local Social Welfare Office will be happy to pass on your appeal to the Appeals Office. Or you may prefer to send your appeal directly t`o:

Chief Appeals Officer
Social Welfare Appeals Office
D'Olier House
D'Olier Street, Dublin 2

LoCall: 1890 747 434

Email: swappeals@welfare.ie

Website: http://www.socialwelfareappeals.ie/

What happens when I appeal?

When you appeal, the Chief Appeals Officer will arrange to have your case placed before an Appeals Officer.

The Appeals Officer may deal with your appeal on their own if there is enough written evidence. If not, the Appeals Officer may decide to hold an oral hearing of your case, to which you are invited.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Appeals

There is a different process for appealing against decisions relating to Supplementary Welfare Allowance. As this scheme is run by the Health Service Executive, appeals should be made to the relevant Health Service Executive�s Appeals Officer. If you are still not happy with the outcome, you may request the Health Service Executive to send your case to the Chief Appeals Officer for independent consideration.

Note:
You must first appeal to the Health Service Executive before asking it to refer the matter to the Chief Appeals Officer.

For further details on appeals, see information booklets SW 53, SW 54 and SW 56.


Last modified:17/04/2009
 

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