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Means test for Jobseeker's Allowance

Introduction

To qualify Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) you must satisfy a mean test. In a means test the Department of Social Protection examines all your sources of income to test if they fall below a certain level. If they fall below that level you will get Jobseeker’s Allowance. The amount of Jobseeker’s Allowance you get depends on your income level.

In the means test for Jobseeker’s Allowance your household income is assessed. If you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabitating, the means of your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant are also taken into account. Sometimes a certain amount of income or income from particular sources is not taken into account. Income not taken into account is often referred to as income disregards.

The means test for Jobseeker’s Allowance can be a complex calculation. Here we look at some of the general items that are taken into account in the means test.

The means test examines the following types of income:

  • Cash income (including income from work)
  • Property personally used
  • Capital (savings and investments) and property not personally used
  • Benefit and privilege from living with your parents.

Cash income

The means test assesses all cash income that you expect to get in the forthcoming year. If it is not possible to estimate your income over the next 12 months, it is usually based on the income you actually received in the previous year.

Among the cash income that is assessed is:

Most social welfare payments and Health Service Executive payments are not taken into account. Find out more about cash income not included in the means test.

Property personally used

The house in which you live is not included in the assessment of your means unless you are getting an income from it. If you have rented a room in the house, that income is assessed but the capital value of your home is not.

Capital and property not personally used

Capital includes property (not your home), savings and investments.

If you own property (excluding your home) or you have investments or any other form of capital, the value is assessed, using a standard formula (see below) whether or not you are getting an income from the property or investment. If property is rented you will not be assessed on the actual income from the letting. Any outstanding mortgage registered against the property is deducted from the market value to find the capital value.

The property and investments that may be assessed include savings in a bank account (or anywhere else), a house that you have let and stocks and shares. If you or your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant saves a portion of your social welfare payment each week, these savings as well as savings from most other sources will be taken into account as part of your means.

The formula for assessing the value of capital including property (but not your own home), savings and investments is as follows:

Capital Weekly means assessed
First €20,000 Nil
Next €10,000 €1 per €1,000
Next €10,000 €2 per €1,000
Balance (€40,000 +) €4 per €1,000

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 example

If you have €55,000 savings:

The first €20,000 is assessed as nil, €20,000 to €30,000 is assessed as €10, €30,000 to €40,000 is assessed as €20, €40,000 and €55,000 is assessed as €60.

€10 + €20 + €60 = €90

Savings of €55,000 gives a means of €90 per week.

Living with your parents

If you are 24 years of age or under and you are living with a parent or a step-parent in the family home, some of your parents' income will also be taken into account in the assessment for Jobseeker's Allowance.

This is called an assessment of the benefit and privilege you get from living with your parents. More information is available on how benefit and privilege is assessed in the means test.

Total means

To find your total means, your means under the various headings (for example, cash income, employment, capital, benefit and privilege) are added together. If you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting and your partner is getting a social welfare payment in their own right your means may be halved - see ‘Couples’ below.

Your total household means is then deducted from the maximum payment for your situation (see below) to find the actual amount of Jobseeker’s Allowance you are entitled to.

Maximum payment for your situation

The maximum payment for your situation is the maximum personal rate of Jobseeker's Allowance including any increases for adult and child dependants. However, if you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting and your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is getting a social welfare payment in their own right, your joint means are halved and the maximum payment for your situation will not include an increase for an adult dependant and will only include half-rate increases for your child dependants (see 'Couples' below).

Your age can also determine the maximum payment for your situation. More information on the JA rate for people under 26 can be found in our document on Jobseeker's Allowance.

Couples

If your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant has a social welfare payment in their own right (except Child Benefit, Disablement Pension, guardian's payments, Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Domiciliary Care Allowance and half-rate Carer's Allowance) or is on a SOLAS or VTOS course and getting a payment in their own right you cannot claim an Increase for a Qualified Adult for them.

This means that the maximum you can be paid is the maximum Jobseeker’s Allowance payment for a single person plus a half-rate allowance for each qualified child. (Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant will get a half-rate payment for each qualified child with their payment.)

In addition only 50% of your combined means are taken into account in the means test for your Jobseeker’s Allowance - in other words your combined means are halved. (The other half will be taken into account in the means test for your partner's payment if your partner is getting a means-tested payment.)

You can claim an increase for your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant while they are taking part in a Community Employment (CE) scheme. Their earnings from the scheme are assessed in the same way as earnings from insurable employment (and your combined means are not halved).

However, if you are claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is getting of 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.

  • Illness Benefit
  • Disablement Pension (when paid with Illness Benefit or Incapacity Supplement)
  • Injury Benefit
  • Invalidity Pension
  • State Pension (Non-Contributory)
  • State Pension (Contributory)
  • State Pension (Transition)
  • Jobseeker's Benefit
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Pre-Retirement Allowance (PRETA)
  • Farm Assist (FA)

Example

Paul is 36 and qualifies for Jobseeker’s Allowance. His partner Anna is getting Invalidity Pension.

Anna and Paul have chosen Anna's Invalidity Pension as the primary payment rather than Paul's Jobseeker's Allowance because Invalidity Pension is paid at a higher weekly rate.

Claimant on Invalidity Pension (IP) under 65 years €193.50
Qualified adult rate for IP under 65 years €138.10
Maximum payable to Anna and Paul €331.60

In this case Paul's JA payment is reduced to €138.10 and Anna is paid the full amount of IP.

Paul will get Jobseeker’s Allowance of €138.10

Additional information

You can also find more information in the Department of Social Protection’s Operational Guidelines about:

Page updated: 27 January 2014

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.