To qualify for 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 an income disregard.
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:
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 are not taken into account. Find out more about cash income not included in the means test.
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 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|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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 or half-rate Carer's Allowance) or is on a Further Education and Training (FET) 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 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. If a couple are both claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in their own right the rate paid to each person is half of the family rate. If one or both of the couple is aged 26 or under, each person is paid half of the family rate that would apply to them individually. The total amount payable to a couple where one or both are under 26 can vary depending on who makes the claim (see examples below).
|Example of limitation|
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 €198.50
Maximum payable to Anna and Paul €340.20
In this case Paul's JA payment is reduced to €141.70 and Anna is paid the full amount of IP.
Paul will get Jobseeker’s Allowance of €141.70
|Examples for people under 26 claiming Jobseeker's Allowance|
|Cian and Jane
Cian is 24 and his partner Jane is 25. Cian is claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in his own right. If he made a claim for Jane as his qualified adult the rate payable for the couple would be €205.40 (€102.70 each).
However if Jane claimed for Cian as a qualified adult the total amount paid would be €275.90 (€147.80 for Jane and €128.10 for Cian).
If they both claim JA separately each person would get half of the family rate that applies to them. So if Jane made a claim in her own right for Jobseeker’s Allowance her rate would be €137.95 (275.90/2) and Cian could claim JA of €102.70 (205.40/2). The total paid to the couple would be €240.65.
It may be more beneficial for Cian to claim JA in his own right so he can access activation measures and qualify for employment or training schemes in his own right.
James and Grainne
James is 29 and his partner Grainne is 25.
If James claims JA for himself and includes Grainne as a qualified adult on his payment the rate payable for the couple would be €321.10 (€193 for James and €128.10 for Grainne).
If Grainne claimed JA in her own right with a payment for James as a qualified adult, the total paid would be €275.90 (€147.80 for Grainne and €128.10 for James).
If they both claim JA separately each person would get half of the family rate that applies to them. So James would get a personal rate of €160.55 (321.10/2) and Grainne would receive €137.95 (275.90/2).
You can also find more information in the Department of Social Protection’s Operational Guidelines about:
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.