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Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Information

Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) provides a basic weekly allowance to eligible people who have little or no income. People with low incomes may also qualify for a weekly supplement payment under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme to meet certain special needs, for example, help with rent/mortgage interest payments or for urgent or exceptional needs.

Budget 2014

From 9 January 2014 SWA claimants with no children aged between 18 and 24 years receive €100 per week. Existing claimants aged between 18 and 24 who were on a higher rate before 9 January 2014 will not have their rate reduced.

From 9 January 2014 SWA claimants with no children aged 25 years will receive €144 a week. This weekly €144 rate will increase to €186 when they reach 26 years of age. Existing claimants aged 25 who were on a higher rate before 9 January 2014 will not have their rate reduced.

Rules

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 Supplementary Welfare Allowance while you are waiting for your payment.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance is not a taxable source of income.

Conditions

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 satisfy the habitual residence test, except for an Exceptional Needs Payment. EU/EEA workers and Swiss nationals working here will satisfy the habitual residence condition. 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 have registered for work with your local Employment Services Office/Intreo office if you are of working age.

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: including most social welfare and Health Service Executive payments, except Child Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and Blind Welfare Allowance. This also includes all financial compensation except compensation awarded by a court to people who contracted Hepatitis C through the use of Human Immunoglobulin-Anti-D or through receiving blood products or blood transfusions in Ireland, the Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunals, the Residential Institutions Redress Board, or for disability caused by use of the drug Thalidomide.

From June 2007, Guardian's Payment (Contributory), Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory) and the Respite Care Grant are not taken into account in the means test for Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

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. Find out how benefit and privilege is assessed in the means test.

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 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.

If you are paid an Urgent Needs Payment, you may have to pay back all or part of what you have been paid if you are working or once an insurance claim is settled.

Rates

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 27 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 2014

Maximum rate for people aged 26 and over (from 9 January 2014)
Personal rate Increase for a Qualified Adult Increase for a Qualified Child
Maximum rate €186 €124.80 €29.80

Maximum rate for people aged under 26 (from 9 January 2014)
Age Personal rate Increase for a Qualified Adult
18 - 24 €100 €100
25 €144 €124.80

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
  • Certain children leaving HSE care aged 18 or who were in the care of the HSE 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 the changes on 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.

For example, 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.

Mary is aged 21 and gets an SWA payment of €100. She will turn 22 on 2 March 2014. Mary will continue to get a rate 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 representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) at your local health centre 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 passport, driving licence, work permit, immigration (GNIB) card, etc.
  • Evidence of any income you and your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant and children are getting
  • A note from your local social welfare office and your last wages slip if you have just applied for Jobseeker's Benefit or Allowance
  • Your Child Benefit Book or birth certificates for any children you may be claiming for if you do not have PPSNs for them
  • 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 but does not decide on appeals relating to Exceptional or Urgent Needs Payments.

Where to apply

You should contact the Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly the Community Welfare Officer) at your local health centre.

Page updated: 7 February 2014

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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.