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Supplementary Welfare Allowance


Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people who do not have enough income to meet their needs and those of their families.


If you have no income, you may be entitled to the basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance. If your weekly income is below the Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate for your family size, a payment may be made to bring your income up to the appropriate Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate.

If you have claimed a social welfare benefit or pension but it has not yet been paid and you have no other income, you may qualify for basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance while you are waiting for your payment.

If you have returned to work you can claim the basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance for up to 30 days while you are waiting for your wages.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance is not a taxable source of income.


You will normally qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance if you satisfy the following conditions:

  • You are living in the State.
  • You satisfy the means test.
  • You have applied for any other benefit or allowance you may be entitled to.
  • You have registered for work with your local Intreo office or Employment Services Office if you are of working age.
  • You satisfy the habitual residence condition.
  • EU/EEA and Swiss migrant workers who have been working in Ireland can access basic SWA and supplements without having habitual residence assessed, provided they have the right to reside in Ireland. However, people from the EU/EEA or Switzerland who move to Ireland in search of employment are subject to the habitual residence test in the normal way while looking for work.

You will not normally qualify for basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance if you are:

  • In full-time work, that is, working for more than 30 hours per week*.
  • In full-time education.
  • Involved in a trade dispute. However, you may claim Supplementary Welfare Allowance for your dependants.

* This condition does not apply to your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. However any income they have from work is taken into account in the means test.

Means test

The main items taken into account for the means test include:

All cash income

Most social welfare and Health Service Executive payments, except Child Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and Blind Welfare Allowance, Guardian's Payment (Contributory), Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory) and the Carer's Support Grant (formerly called the Respite Care Grant).

All financial compensation except compensation awarded by a court to certain people (see 'Further information' below for details of compensation payments.)

Rehabilitative employment: Up to €120 from rehabilitative employment is disregarded.

The value of any benefit or privilege: If you are 24 years of age or under and 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 Supplementary Welfare Allowance. The Department of Social Protection calls this an assessment of the 'benefit and privilege' you get from living with your parents.

The value of investments, savings or property (but not the value of your own home) is calculated as follows:

Capital Weekly means assessed
First €5,000 not taken into account
Next €10,000 €1 per €1,000
Next €25,000 €2 per €1,000
Balance €4 per €1,000

If you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting your total income is added together in the means test.

Repayment of Supplementary Welfare Allowance

In certain circumstances, you may have to repay any assistance you have received under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. For example:

If basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance is paid while you are waiting for a social welfare benefit, assistance or pension, the amount paid will be deducted from the arrears of your social welfare payment.


The basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance is made up of a personal rate for the applicant and additional amounts for any adult dependant and/or child dependant(s). A child dependant is a person under the age of 18 who lives with you and depends on you for financial support. If you have been getting SWA for at least 26 weeks, the age limit is 22 for a child dependant in full-time education or up to the end of the academic year after their 22nd birthday.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance rates in 2016

Age Maximum personal rate Increase for a qualified adult Increase for a qualified child
Aged 26 and over €186 €124.80 €29.80
Aged 25 €144 €124.80 n/a
Aged 18-24 €100 €100 n/a

Reduced rates of Supplementary Welfare Allowance for claimants under 26 years of age do not apply to:

  • People with dependent children
  • People aged 22-25 who were getting a higher rate before 9 January 2014
  • People who were in the care of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) for any period during the 12 months before reaching 18 years of age

There are no reductions in rates for existing claimants aged between 18 and 25 who were getting a higher rate before 9 January 2014. (People aged 18-21 got €100, people aged 22-24 got €144 and at 25 the full personal SWA rate was payable.) However their payments will increase in line with the new rates.

Example 1: John turned 22 on 5 January 2014. He has been claiming SWA since January 2013 and his rate increased from €100 to €144 on 5 January 2014. John can continue to get a rate of €144. If John continues to claim SWA his rate will increase to €186 on his 26th birthday.

Example 2: Mary is aged 21 and gets an SWA payment of €100. If Mary continues to claim SWA her rate will increase to €144 on her 25th birthday and to €186 on her 26th birthday.

How to apply

You should apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance to the Department of Social Protection's Community Welfare Service at your local office as soon as the need arises. You must fill in a Supplementary Welfare Allowance claim form (pdf). To help process your claim, you should have the following:

  • Personal Public Service (PPS) numbers (formerly RSI numbers) for yourself, your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant and your children
  • Proof of residency
  • Proof of identity, for example, a Public Services Card (if you have one), a passport, driving licence, work permit, immigration (GNIB) card, etc.
  • Evidence of any household income
  • Birth certificates for any children you include in your application
  • Documents to show your income and financial situation, such as, pay slips, P45, P35, P60, bank statements, etc.

Appealing a decision

You have the right to appeal against a decision if you are not satisfied with the outcome of your claim. You can appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office. The Social Welfare Appeals Office deals with appeals relating to basic SWA and SWA supplements.

Where to apply

You should contact the Department of Social Protection's Community Welfare Service at your local office.

Further information

People who have received certain types of compensation from a court do not have that income assessed in the means test for SWA. Compensation from the following sources is not assessed:

  • By various compensation tribunals and the courts for people who have contracted Hepatitis C (Originally SWA Circular No. 5/97)
  • By the Residential Institutions Redress Board
  • To persons who have disabilities caused by Thalidomide
  • Under the Health (Repayments Scheme) Act 2006
  • Awards paid to women following the publication of the Magdalen Commission Report
  • Payments awarded by the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board
  • Payments awarded under the Symphysiotomy ex Gratia Scheme
  • Payments awarded under the Lourdes Hospital Redress Scheme 2007
  • Payments awarded under the Lourdes Hospital Payment Scheme
Page edited: 30 June 2016



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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.