Thursday, 14 July 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Eligibility
516. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department has examined and costed the proposals in relation to means testing made by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, Rural and Community Development and the Islands in 2021; if the changes proposed will be included in the consideration by her Department for budget 2023; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34171/22]
I received the Pre-Budget Submission from the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands, which was produced on foot of a significant consultation and engagement with interested stakeholders.
I was very grateful for the time and effort taken by the Deputy and the Committee in producing this report and in drawing these issues to my attention.
Many of the issues addressed in the Committee’s submission are similar to suggestions made to me and to the Department in our engagement with stakeholders, through the pre-budget process undertaken each year. This includes the receipt of many pre-Budget submissions, the Department’s Pre-budget Forum, the Social Inclusion Forum and bilateral meetings with the community and voluntary sector and individual representative groups.
As with all of these engagements, the views and recommendations of the Committee will form part of consideration by Government when forming social welfare measures to be included as part of Budget 2023, taking account of Government priorities and the need to protect the most vulnerable in society
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.
517. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department has examined the effect of means testing as a barrier to persons either engaging in self-employment or employment or increasing their income from both; if so, the results of this examination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34172/22]
Social welfare legislation provides that, for social assistance schemes, income and capital (such as savings, investments and property other than the family home) belonging to the claimant and his or her partner, where applicable, is assessable for means assessment purposes. The purpose of the means assessment is to maintain the policy of ensuring that social welfare expenditure is targeted to those who need it most.
All of the claimant’s sources of income are added together and taken into account when deciding whether they qualify for a means-tested payment, or the level at which they are paid. Decisions on means assessments are made by Deciding Officers. If a person is not satisfied with the decision, they may ask for a review of the decision or make an appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.
Elements of the Means Assessment
Cash income that is assessed includes any income from employment or self-employment, income from a social security pension from another country and maintenance payments.
The assessment of income can vary from scheme to scheme depending on the nature and purpose of the scheme. Sometimes a certain amount of income, or income from particular sources, is not taken into account for a particular scheme and these are usually referred to as income disregards.
Employment is the best, and most sustainable, route out of poverty for most people. Therefore, means testing policy aims to achieve a balance between ensuring resources are targeted towards those with the greatest need while supporting people to take up employment opportunities.
When assessing income from employment, the following items are deducted from gross earnings:
- Union Dues;
- Superannuation or contribution to pension fund;
- In the case of self-employment income, all expenses directly related to self-employment are deducted.
Income disregards vary from scheme to scheme. For example, Disability Allowance claimants can earn up to €140 per week from employment or self-employment without their payment being affected, while weekly earnings between €140 and €350 are assessed at 50%. This income disregard aims to ensure that people with disabilities can participate in work while retaining a proportion of their social welfare payment. As another example, carer's allowance provides for disregards of €350 per week for a single person and €750 for a couple.
I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.