Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Department of Social and Family Affairs
Social Welfare Code
Question 159: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if he will have investigations made into the way self-employed persons are actually accessed in respect of their incomes; if it is on audited accounts, farm accounts in the case of farm assist or some other means; if he will ensure that this system is clarified to enable persons to understand whether they are entitled to social protection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2841/11]
Self-employed people can apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. Self-employed customers do not have to de-register as self-employed persons in order to claim jobseeker's allowance. Information on social welfare entitlements, including for self employed people, is set out on the Department's website www.welfare.ie.
Legislation provides for the assessment of "all income in cash and any non-cash benefits which the person or his or her spouse may reasonably expect to receive during the succeeding year". While accounts provide significant information, a means assessment is not based solely on audited accounts or farm accounts. The income from the previous twelve months is used as an indicator of likely future earnings but it is not simply assumed that the previous year's earnings will be received in the following year. Given the variety of self-employment situations, the means assessment procedures in these cases are applied in a flexible manner and they ensure that any circumstances that would be likely to lead to a significant variation, either upward or downward, in the level of a person's income from one year to the next are taken into consideration.
It is recognised that the present downturn in the economy is having a significant impact on many self-employed persons and the consequent reduction in their income and activity levels would be reflected in any assessment of their means from self-employment for jobseeker's allowance purposes. If a self-employed person's situation changes after they have made an initial claim for jobseeker's allowance, the person can apply to have his or her means reviewed in the light of these changed circumstances. In addition, it is open to the individual to appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office if he or she is dissatisfied with the level of means assessed. To ensure consistency in the application of the legislation, guidelines are issued to Deciding Officers in order to ensure a consistent and uniform application of the rules governing the deciding of jobseeker's allowance claims.