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Claiming a social welfare payment

Introduction

The Department of Social Protection has a range of social welfare payments that provide financial support. To get a social welfare payment, you must apply. So, if you think you are entitled to a payment you should apply unless you are certain you don't qualify.

Your first step before applying, is to find out which payment you may be entitled to. Payments are available for unemployed people, for families and children, for widows, widowers and surviving civil partners, for guardians or orphans, for older and retired people and for disabled people and their carers. If you get a social welfare payment you may also qualify for extra social welfare benefits.

The Household Budget Scheme allows people who get certain social welfare payments to have regular small amounts directly deducted from their social welfare payment to pay household bills. For example, telephone, gas, electricity and local authority rent.

Rules

To apply for a social welfare payment you must fill in an application form and provide other supporting documentation. The information and documentation varies from one payment to another. The type of documentation required will also depend on your personal circumstances. However, you must normally submit some documentation with your claim form. For example, for most claims you will need to submit your birth certificate.

If you qualify for a payment, you may be able to get an increase in your payment for an adult dependant. You may be able to claim for a child dependant. If it is possible to claim for dependants, the Department of Social Protection will request information about your dependants on the application form.

It may take some time for the Department to process your claim. As part of the procedure, you may be interviewed in your home or asked to attend an interview at your local social welfare office.

While your claim is being processed by the Department, you may qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

It is important that you make your claim as soon as you know you are entitled to the payment. All payments must be claimed within a specific period of time. If you don't claim on time you may lose out. Find out more about making a late claim.

If you are asked to provide information reasonably required by a social welfare inspector when investigating your claim you must provide the statements, information or documents within 21 days. The same time period applies to your spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, employer and certain other people (for example, landlords).

If you are refused a social welfare payment or get a lesser amount than you expected, you have 21 days to appeal the decision of the Department of Social Protection.

There is additional information about how the Department makes decisions on claims in 'Further information' below.

How to apply

You must complete the application form and provide supporting documentation. You can get an application or claim form, from the Department of Social Protection, your social welfare local office or your local Citizens Information Centre. You can also get an application form from the Department's website.

Your social welfare local office or your local Citizens Information Centre will help you fill in your claim form.

If you need a birth, marriage or death certificate for any social welfare insurance or assistance payment it may be purchased for a reduced rate (currently €1) from your nearest Superintendent Registrars Office or the General Registrar Office (GRO). To get the reduced rate you need a letter or note from the Department to prove that the certificate is needed for those purposes. The Department of Social Protection will keep any certificates you get for a reduced fee.

The General Registers Office keeps all records relating to births, deaths and marriages in Ireland (not Northern Ireland). Birth certificates of adopted children and non-Catholic marriage certificates are only available from the General Register Office. The Superintendent Registrars are located in each county and hold records of all births, deaths and marriages that took place in those counties. You can get more information about getting a Birth, Marriage or Death certificate.

Where to apply

To claim a social welfare payment you should fill in the correct application form and return it to the Department of Social Protection. The return address is printed on the application form.

To apply for Rent Supplement, Mortgage Interest Supplement or other payments under the Supplementary Welfare Scheme you must apply to the Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) at your local health centre.

Further information

How social welfare decisions are made

Deciding Officers are employed by the Department of Social Protection to accept or reject claims made in Ireland for social welfare payments. Deciding officers are given the power to make these decisions through the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 and previous social welfare legislation.

Before making a claim or applying for a social welfare payment you must complete the application form. The application form will ask for various details, such as your name, address, PPS Number, income etc. These details will help the Department of Social Protection to process your application and if your claim is successful to put it into payment.

As part of the application process, you must also provide supporting documentation to prove that the information you have given on the application form is correct. For example, you will be asked for a birth certificate to prove you have given the correct date of birth.

To qualify for a social welfare payment you must meet all the qualifying criteria for that payment. Different social welfare payments have different qualifying criteria. It is your responsibility to prove to the Department that you qualify for the payment you have applied for.

If you are applying for a payment due to an illness or disability your doctor must fill in part of the application from. If you are in work, your employer may have to fill in a part of the form. The type of information required depends on the payment you apply for.

When you send your application form into the Department of Social Protection it will be assessed to make sure that it is correctly completed and that you have sent all the required documentation with your application form.

At this point, the Department may request further information from you or ask you to attend a medical examination to find out if you qualify for the payment you applied for. For example if you apply for Disability Allowance you may be asked to attend for a medical examination. If this is the case, the doctor's report stating whether or not you meet the medical criteria is sent to the person at the Department of Social Protection who is responsible for making a decision on your claim.

When the Department has all the information it needs, a Deciding Officer will examine your claim and will either accept or reject your claim for the social welfare payment you applied for. The Deciding Officer must apply the law as laid out in Social Welfare Acts, Statutory Instruments, and relevant Department Guidelines, Circulars etc. when making a decision on your claim. If your claim is approved, the Deciding Officer will determine the rate of your payment.

A Deciding Officer must record his or her decision on your claim in writing. Generally, if your application for a payment has been successful you will get a letter stating this. If the decision is unfavorable however, the deciding officer must give you a letter stating you claim has been rejected and also the reasons for this decision in writing. If you have been awarded less than the maximum rate of payment you must get a letter stating the reasons for this.

It is useful to know the reason or reasons why a deciding officer rejected your claim or awarded you less than the maximum rate of payment, especially if you wish to challenge his or her decision.

If you disagree with the decision a Deciding Officer made in relation to your claim you can:

  • Contact the Deciding Officer who is dealing with your claim with any further evidence or information to support your claim and request the Deciding officer to review your claim. In this case the Deciding officer can review your claim. If you are not happy with the outcome of a reviewed decision by a deciding officer, you can appeal the reviewed decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Or

  • Appeal the decision of the deciding Officer directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Further information about appealing social welfare decisions is available here.

Page updated: 24 January 2013

Language

Gaeilge

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Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.