Maintenance and social welfare payments

What is maintenance?

Parents, whether married or not, must support their dependent children. Similarly, spouses and civil partners must support each other according to their financial ability. If partners separate, one person may pay maintenance to the other person, to help them with living costs.

Maintenance can be paid voluntarily, or as a result of a ‘maintenance order’ granted by the courts. You can read more about how to apply for maintenance.

This page explains how maintenance is assessed in the means test for a social assistance payment.

What maintenance is assessed as means?

If you are applying for a social assistance payment, you must pass a means test. The Department of Social Protection (DSP) looks at all your sources of income, such as:

  • Wages from employment
  • Capital (savings and investments)
  • Other cash income
  • Maintenance (excluding child maintenance)

If you are getting maintenance from more than one person, it will be added together, and the total will be assessed as means. The DSP also takes maintenance paid to your spouse, civil partner, or cohabitant is into account.

Maintenance not taken into account

Since 4 June 2024, child maintenance payments are not included in the means test for social assistance payments. However, if you are getting maintenance that is not child maintenance, this will continue to be means-tested. For example, any spousal maintenance you get will be means tested.

Half of your assessable maintenance is disregarded (not taken into account) in the means test for the following payments:

Rent or mortgage costs

If you have housing costs, your rent or mortgage repayment up to a maximum of €95.23 per week can be offset against maintenance payments. Half the balance is then assessed as means. You must show proof of rent or mortgage payments.

If you do not have any housing costs, half of your means from maintenance is assessed.

Example of how maintenance is assessed

Example of how maintenance is assessed in a calculation of means

A single parent with one child is getting maintenance of €300. The maintenance order specifies €100 for the parent and €200 for the child (the €200 for the child is not included in the means test). Rent is €150 per week (€95.23 of which is offset against maintenance payments).

Maintenance: €300.00
Minus child maintenance: €200

Minus rent: €95.23
Total: €4.77
(Only half assessed as means)
Total means from maintenance: €2.38

Getting a payment before 2003

If you were getting one of the payments listed above (except Working Family Payment) before 2003, you may qualify to have your maintenance assessed using the old rules.

See more detailed information about these rules and the assessment of maintenance as means on

How maintenance is assessed for Rent Supplement

In the means test for Rent Supplement, maintenance is assessed as additional household income, and maintenance payments up to €95.23 per week are assessed in full. The ‘household income disregard’ applies to maintenance payments above this amount.

Household income disregard

A certain amount of your household income above the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) rate for your situation is not taken into account.

€75 of any additional household income is not taken into account and 25% of additional household income over €75 is not taken into account. There is no upper limit on the amount that can be disregarded.

You can read more about calculating Rent Supplement.

How maintenance is assessed for Working Family Payment

Only one Working Family Payment (WFP) can be made for any family.

This means that if you are applying for WFP, the parent from whom you are getting maintenance must not be getting WFP.

You cannot offset your housing costs against maintenance payments for WFP, if you have already done so in the means test for another social welfare payment.

How maintenance is assessed for a child with a means-tested social assistance payment

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Since 4 June 2024, child maintenance payments are excluded from the means test for all social welfare payments.

Previously, if you were getting Jobseeker's Allowance, any maintenance paid to your parent on your behalf was assessed as benefit and privilege against you. If a portion of the maintenance was paid directly to you, this portion was assessed as cash income against you, and the remainder (which was paid to your parent) was assessed as benefit and privilege.

Disability Allowance

Previously, if you were getting Disability Allowance, any maintenance in the form of cash income from either parent was assessable as means. However, child maintenance is now disregarded in the means test.

Page edited: 6 June 2024