Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Artists' Remuneration

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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277. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the awards and funding from the Arts Council and other artistic bursaries, awards and grants will be excluded from the means test for the blind pension for artists with disabilities akin to the action taken to ensure that PhD students with disabilities retain their social protection payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24016/22]

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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278. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the awards and funding from the Arts Council and other artistic bursaries, awards and grants will be excluded from the means test for the disability allowance for artists with disabilities akin to the action taken to ensure that PhD students with disabilities retain their social protection payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24017/22]

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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279. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the rationale for the vast difference of the savings and investments disregard between the blind pension, in which the first €20,000 is not included in the means test and the disability allowance, in which the first €50,000 is not included in the means test; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24018/22]

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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280. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will harmonise the saving and investment disregard for the blind pension to that of the disability allowance; if she will detail the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24019/22]

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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281. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will harmonise the treatment of people with disabilities who secure artistic funding, bursaries or grants to make it the same as for people with disabilities who secure PhD funding that is, Catherine’s law; if not, the reason; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24021/22]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 to 281, inclusive, together.

Disability Allowance and Blind Pension are means tested social assistance schemes, which are also subject to a medical assessment and habitual residency requirement.

Both schemes are structured to support recipients to avail of opportunities to pursue their own employment ambitions, be that self-employment or insurable employment. In the means test, both schemes have an income disregard of €140 per week. In addition, 50% of earnings between €140 and €350 are also disregarded, i.e., 50% of earnings in this band are disregarded for the purpose of the means test. Earnings above €350 are assessed in full.

Budget 2022 measures, will see from June:

- An increase in the upper disregard of €25 per week, from €350 to €375 for both payments

- An increase of €5.10 being applied to the general weekly means disregard entry point for the Disability Allowance. This increase will bring the entry point of the weekly means disregard for Disability Allowance in line with that of the Blind Pension, at €7.60 per week.

There are a number of scholarships, such as those awarded by certain charitable organisations, which are not assessed as part of the means test for any social welfare payment. These include payments under the 1916 Bursary Fund and under Higher Educational Scholarships for Adult Learners from Uversity, to a maximum of €7,000 per annum. Uversity is a registered charity that has been awarding Higher Education Scholarships to adult learners since 2018. In addition disregards were introduced for persons in receipt of the Disability Allowance and Blind Pension who have been granted a bursary, stipend or scholarship towards completing a PhD in 2021/22.

Legislation does not provide for a disregard for funding from grants for artists and as such, any awards made through these types of schemes are assessed as income in the means test.

Any proposed changes to the means test for schemes, would need to be considered in an overall budgetary and policy context.

In addition to the age at which a person becomes eligible, there are a number of other differences between the Disability Allowance and Blind Pension schemes, for example, relating to aspects of the means test, taxation, access to the Free Travel Scheme and eligibility for concurrent payments.

With regards to capital in the assessment of means, my Department uses a formula, which is set out in legislation, to calculate a person's weekly means from capital. For Blind Pension, and most other social assistance schemes, the formula 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 capital assessment formula applying to Disability Allowance is unique in the social welfare system, in that the first €50,000 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 €50,000 capital disregard is being extended to the Carer's Allowance payment in June 2022.)

Under Pathways to Work (2021 – 2025) the Government has committed to “Review the current long-term disability payment schemes with a view to removing inconsistencies/anomalies and ensure that they recognise the continuum of disabilities and support employment.” I would hope to bring forward proposals on this issue for public consultation later this year.

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