If you are getting certain disability payments you may be allowed to do work or training that is considered rehabilitative or therapeutic. People getting Illness Benefit and Invalidity Pension cannot work (except for unpaid voluntary work). They must transfer to the Partial Capacity Scheme if they wish to work.
In most cases you need permission to take up rehabilitative work, voluntary work or training. This permission is sometimes called an exemption. Exemptions are always granted for a specific period of time. At the end of that period you must re-apply.
In general, if you are getting a means-tested payment your income from work will be assessed in the means test. However some of your income from work is not assessed.
Social assistance (means-tested) payments: Disability Allowance and Blind Pension are means-tested disability payments. If you wish to do rehabilitative work, you must get written permission from the Department of Social Protection (DSP) before starting any work. For both payments you need to provide a letter from your doctor certifying that the proposed work is rehabilitative. You also need to provide confirmation of your earnings (a payslip, your contract of employment or a letter from your employer). You do not need to have been getting your payment for a minimum period of time before you can apply for permission to work. You may keep your Disability Allowance or Blind Pension if you get an exemption and your income is below a certain level.
To qualify for a means-tested payment your income from various sources is examined to see whether it is under a certain level. Some earnings from rehabilitative work are not taken into account in the assessment of your means and do not affect your payment. For Disability Allowance and Blind Pension, earnings of up to €120 from rehabilitative work (either as an employee or as a self-employed person) are not taken into account at all in the assessment of means. (The means assessed are your gross earnings less PRSI, any pension contributions and any union dues. You cannot deduct income tax or income levies.)
If you earn more than €120 per week from rehabilitative work, 50% of your earnings between €120 and €350 are not taken into account in the Disability Allowance or Blind Pension means test.
Disability Allowance: all earnings over €350 are assessed as income and your entitlement to Disability Allowance will be reduced in line with the appropriate reduced rates of payment for Disability Allowance. If you have no other means, the maximum amount you can earn is €427.50 and still keep an entitlement to the minimum personal payment of €3 (2017). If you are getting payments for a qualified adult or qualified children your means from rehabilitative work are deducted from the family rate that applies to you.
Blind Pension: all earnings over €350 will also be assessed as income and your entitlement to Blind Pension will be reduced in line with the appropriate reduced rates of payment for Blind Pension. If you have no other means, the maximum amount you can earn is €432.60 and still keep an entitlement to the minimum personal payment of €3 (2017).
While no restriction has been placed on the number of hours you may work you should use a maximum of 20 hours a week as a guideline.
Social insurance payments: Invalidity Pension and Illness Benefit are social insurance (PRSI-based) payments. You cannot work while you are getting these payments (with the exception of voluntary unpaid work).
If you have been getting Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit (for at least 6 months) you can apply for Partial Capacity Benefit, if you have a reduced capacity to work. The work does not have to be considered rehabilitative. You may have to pay income tax on your total income. Exemptions for rehabilitative work are no longer available.
Injury Benefit is one of the benefits available under the Occupational Injuries Scheme. If you are getting Injury Benefit you can do light voluntary work. You can also do part-time work which is part of a treatment or charitable in character (provided you do not earn more than €50 a week) without permission. However if you wish to do other rehabilitative work or a training course you must get written permission from the DSP (called an exemption) before starting. Exemptions allowing a person to work are not normally granted within the first 26 weeks of Injury Benefit.
Incapacity Supplement is paid to people who are getting Disablement Pension and who do not qualify for any other disability payments. You can work provided you do not earn more than €33 a week on average. However if you wish to do other rehabilitative work or a training course you must get written permission from the DSP before starting. Initial requests for an exemption to do training courses are automatically granted but subsequent requests are referred to a DSP medical advisor. If you wish to take part in a Community Employment Scheme you cannot retain your Incapacity Supplement but you can retain your Disablement Benefit.
People getting Disablement Pension (without another payment) can work (full- or part-time) and do not need permission from the Department.
People getting Disability Allowance can qualify for the Rural Social Scheme (if they are actively farming or fishing).
People getting Disability Allowance and Blind Pension can qualify for Family Income Supplement (FIS) if they meet the criteria. People getting Invalidity Pension and Illness Benefit cannot work and therefore cannot qualify for FIS. People getting Partial Capacity Benefit do not qualify for FIS.
If you work while getting Disability Allowance or Blind Pension you can retain any extra benefits you were getting. However the amount of Rent Supplement you get may be affected by your increased income.
In general you can retain any extra benefits you were getting when you take part in an employment scheme.
You can read about Rent Supplement and how additional income from work or taking part in an employment scheme may affect it in our document on Rent Supplement and changes to your circumstances.
If you are getting Disability Allowance or Blind Pension and take up a place on a FET training course you receive a training allowance at the same rate as your social welfare payment. Your social welfare payment is suspended when you are on the training course. You can return to your social welfare payment when you leave the training course.
If you were getting Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit, and take up a place on a FET training course you will continue to get your full social welfare payment including any increases you get for your dependents. You do not get a training allowance or a training bonus. You must always apply for prior written permission from DSP before you can take up a training course.
You can read more in our document on training allowances.
You retain any extra benefits that you had before taking up the course. You can read about how taking part in a training course may affect your Rent Supplement in our document on Rent Supplement and changes to your circumstances.
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.