Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
1293. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider deferring jobseeker’s benefit means tests for those transitioning from jobseeker’s allowance until a later date in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent difficulties posed in carrying out means test assessments and the difficulties social protection customers face in seeking employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6889/20]
The main income supports, excluding the emergency time-limited Pandemic Unemployment Payment, offered by my Department for people who have lost employment are the social insurance contribution based jobseeker's benefit and means tested jobseeker’s allowance schemes.
Jobseekers benefit is paid for 9 months (234 days) for people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid and is paid for 6 months (156 days) for people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid. Where a person exhausts their claim for jobseekers benefit or they do not meet the contribution requirement they may apply for means tested jobseekers allowance.
Social assistance schemes such as jobseeker's allowance are means-tested to ensure that resources are directed to those with the most financial need. A maximum rate is payable where a person has no or limited means, and tapering applies to the rate payable to those with modest or more substantial means, as there is an expectation that those with resources can at least partly contribute towards supporting themselves.
Removing the means test for jobseeker's allowance would involve fundamentally changing the nature of the scheme. It would change from being a targeted income support for those most in need, to a universal support. The key eligibility criteria remaining would be that the claimant be unemployed and genuinely seeking work. Consequently, to ensure the most effective use of resources, it is considered more appropriate that the jobseeker's allowance means test remains.