If you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting the Department of Social Protection (DSP) will assess both of your means when carrying out a means test for a social assistance payment. This is the case even if only one of you is actually claiming a payment.
For some social assistance payments the DSP adds all of your means together and then halves them to get the assessable means for each one of you. For others the DSP adds all your means together and then assesses them against the maximum household payment for your circumstances.
This document gives a general overview of how the means test is carried out for couples; you should also read the document on the individual payment which will give more detail on income not taken into account (or disregarded) for each payment.
For more general information you can read our document on the means test. If you are getting a social insurance payment such as Jobseeker's Benefit or State Pension (Contributory) and wish to claim a payment for your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant only their means will be tested. You can find out more about claiming a payment for a qualified adult with a social insurance payment in our document, Claiming for an adult dependant.
Note that in general if you have a joint account with your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant, legally the total amount in the account is owned by each of you. Therefore it can be assessed in full against each of you. However, if you are both getting means-tested payments it will be assessed on a shared basis or against only one of you.
For Blind Pension, State Pension (Non-Contributory) and Carer's Allowance your means are taken to be half of the total means of yourself and your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. If one of the couple is employed away from home, but returns home periodically and regularly contributes to the support of the other member, the means would generally be assessed on the basis of half the combined means of the couple.
All your sources of income are added together and 50% of the total is taken to be your means. When assessing your means from capital your combined capital is halved and this lower amount is assessed using the standard formula. The resulting amount is then doubled before being added to your other sources of income.
Weekly means assessed
|Next €10,000||€1 per €1,000|
|Next €10,000||€2 per €1,000|
|Balance||€4 per €1,000|
|Example of assessment of means from capital|
|John has €30,000 savings and his wife Mary has €10,000 savings.
They also have a joint account with €10,000. Mary has applied for
Carer's Allowance. Her means from capital is assessed as follows:
€30,000 + €10,000 + €10,000 = €50,000
€50,000 ÷ 2 = €25,000
€25,000 assessed using the formula above = €5
€5 x 2 = €10
Mary’s weekly means from capital is assessed as €10
(At the end of the means calculation all Mary and John's sources of income will be added together to get the couple's total means. This figure will then be halved to see whether Mary qualifies for Carer's Allowance.)
If you are getting Jobseeker's Allowance, Disability Allowance, Pre-Retirement Allowance or Farm Assist your means are assessed differently. Even if your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is not dependent on you and has income in his or her own right you are entitled to claim a payment for them and for any dependent children you may have. Any assessable income they may have is subtracted from the maximum weekly rate of payment for your circumstances.
For example, if you are married and have two children and apply for JA, the maximum family payment you could get is €380.70 (this figure is made up of personal rate of €193 plus a qualified adult rate of €128.10 and two qualified child increases of €29.80). Any assessable income you or your spouse has is deducted from this family payment. (Income from some sources is not assessed and there are disregards for income from employment, see our document, Work and Jobseeker's Allowance for more information.)
However if your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant has a social welfare payment in their own right (with some exceptions such as Child Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance, and Supplementary Welfare Allowance) you cannot claim an Increase for a Qualified Adult for them. This means you are paid as a single person plus a half-rate increase for each qualified child. (Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant will get a half-rate increase for each qualified child with their payment.) In this case only 50% of your combined means are taken into account in the means test.
Note, however, that if you are claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is getting one of the social welfare payments listed below, the total amount paid to you as a couple cannot be more than the maximum amount that would be paid to one person (including adult and child dependants) on one social welfare payment. You can choose which payment is most advantageous.
More information can be found in our document on the means test for Jobseeker's Allowance.
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.