Thursday, 14 July 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Payments
My Department provides a range of income supports for those unable to work due to illness or disability, the largest of which is the Disability Allowance scheme. As at the end of May there were almost 155,800 people in receipt of this payment, with expenditure on Disability Allowance for 2021 at €1.8 billion. An estimated €4.8 billion was spent on illness, disability and caring schemes in 2021. The estimate for 2022 is €4.9 billion.
From the perspective of my Department, it is worth noting that a number of measures were introduced as part of Budget 2022 in relation to people with disabilities and their carers; these included:
- €5 increase in maximum rate of all core weekly payments including people with disabilities and carers, with proportionate increases for qualified adults, with effect from January.
- €3 increase for qualified child dependents aged 12 and over and €2 for those up to age 12, in all core weekly payments.
- An increase in the general weekly means disregard for Disability Allowance from €2.50 to €7.60 per week.
- An increase in the upper earnings disregard for Disability Allowance from €350 to €375.
- €3 increase in the weekly Living Alone Allowance from €19 to €22 for people with disabilities who are living alone.
- €5 increase in the Fuel Allowance from €28 to €33 per week.
- An increase to the Wage Subsidy scheme, which provides financial incentives to encourage private sector employers to employ people with disabilities.
- An increase in the Capital disregard for Carer’s Allowance from €20,000 to €50,000 from June.
- An increase in the weekly income disregard for Carer’s Allowance to €350 a week for single carers and to €750 for carers with a spouse/partner.
- Domiciliary Care Allowance will be paid for children who go into hospital for up to 6 months (was 3 months). Carer’s Allowance will also continue to be paid in respect of children who go into hospital for 6 months.
My Department regularly reviews its supports and payments schemes to ensure that they continue to meet their objectives. As part of this process my Department will host its annual pre-budget forum with the sector later this month. Any proposed increases to payments, including to Disability Allowance, have to be considered in an overall policy and budgetary context.
Working Family Payment (WFP) is a weekly tax-free payment for employees with children which supports people in low paid employment. This payment is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependents and to offer a financial incentive to take up employment.
Working Family Payment is a targeted measure that is directly linked to household income and therefore directly supports low-income working families. There are approximately 46,000 families with 103,000 children who are currently in receipt of this payment. As part of Budget 2022 measures, I introduced an increase in the income thresholds by €10 irrespective of the family size. While this measure was originally due to take effect from June 2022, it was brought forward to April 2022 to assist families with the rising cost of living.
My Department understands the many pressures faced by customers and always seeks to ensure that applications are handled quickly and efficiently. The average time to award a new Working Family Payment application is currently 3 weeks. The target is to process 90% of claims within 6 weeks.
WFP is paid at a fixed amount for a 52 week period, even if earnings increase during that period to give low paid workers assurance of their income. Customers are invited to reapply for the next 52 week period 12 weeks before the payment is due to end. I am pleased to report that all renewal applications submitted on time are processed before the existing payment ends, so there is no lapse in customers payment.
During 2021 my Department implemented improvements to the administration of Working Family Payment. This included the extension of the Department's online services through MyWelfare to include this payment. People can now submit both new and renewal applications online and where all information is provided at the time of application, claims can be awarded immediately. These enhancements mean that my officials can proactively deal with claims and deal with them quickly and efficiently.
I am very proud that my Department continues to provide and maintained a high level of customer service to WFP claimants through the extension of online services and timely processing of claims.