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Social assistance in Ireland

Introduction

Social assistance payments are for people who do not have enough PRSI contributions to qualify for the equivalent social insurance payments. An example would be a person who becomes unemployed, applies for Jobseeker's Benefit but fails to qualify because he or she has insufficient PRSI contributions. He or she can instead apply for Jobseeker's Allowance, which is a similar payment but is not based on the number of PRSI contributions paid. Jobseeker's Benefit is a social insurance payment but Jobseeker's Allowance is a social assistance payment.

However, to get a social assistance payment you must be habitually resident in Ireland and you must pass a means test.

Rules

The rules governing social welfare assistance payments are set out in legislation and/or administrative guidelines. Most of the guidelines are now available on the Department of Social Protection's website.

In general you cannot get two social assistance payments (except for Carer's Allowance which can be paid at a half rate with another social welfare payment). If you think you might qualify for more than one payment, you generally have to choose the one that is of most benefit to you.

There are a number of social assistance payments. You may qualify for one depending on your circumstances:

Jobseeker's Allowance is paid to people aged 18 or over and unemployed.

Pre-Retirement Allowance (PRETA) is paid to people aged 55 and over who have left the labour force. This scheme was closed to new applications in July 2007.

Farm Assist is an income support scheme for farmers. You do not need to be available for work to qualify for Farm Assist.

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension is paid to widows, widowers and surviving civil partners who do not have dependent children.

Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory) is paid to an orphan's guardian up to the orphan's 18th birthday or 22nd birthday if he or she is in full-time education.

Carer's Allowance is paid to people who are looking after someone who is in need of full-time care and attention because of age, physical or learning disability or illness, including mental illness.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance is paid to people that have no little or no income.

State Pension (Non-Contributory) is paid to people when they reach 66 years of age.

Blind Pension is paid to blind and visually impaired people.

Disability Allowance is paid to people with a disability that are aged 16 or over and under age 66.

Deserted Wife's Allowance is paid to women who were deserted by their husband and have no dependent children. This scheme was closed to new applications in January 1997.

One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) is paid to men and women who are bringing children up without the support of a partner.

If you qualify for a social assistance payment you may qualify for additional social welfare benefits.

For most social assistance payments, decisions about your entitlement are made by Deciding Officers. Deciding Officers are social welfare officials appointed under the social welfare legislation.

If you are not happy with a decision by the Department of Social Protection, you have a right to appeal decisions in relation to payments that are based in legislation. Appeals are made to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, an independent statutory body. Find out how to appeal a decision of the Department of Social Protection.

Rates

Rates of payment and dependants

Social welfare payments are divided into a payment for you, the claimant, known as the personal rate of payment, and a payment for any adult dependants and child dependants. The SW 19 Rates of Payment Booklet, published by the Department of Social Protection every year, details the amount of money payable for each scheme and the amount that will be awarded to your dependants.

How to apply

If you wish to apply for a social welfare payment, you should contact your social welfare local office or Citizens Information Centre for an application form and an information leaflet. Fill out the correct application form and return it to the Department of Social Protection. The return address is printed on the application form.

For most social welfare payments you apply directly to the Department of Social Protection or your Social Welfare Local Office, but there are exceptions to this. To apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Rent Supplement or other supplementary welfare payments you must apply to the Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) at your local health centre.

Page updated: 5 February 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.