Supplementary allowance is the basic safety net for persons who do not otherwise qualify for social welfare payments and who have little or no income.

The scheme includes a regular safety net level together with exceptional need payments together with rent and mortgage interest payments and payments for urgent unexceptional needs.

A person who has no income may be entitled to basic supplementary welfare.  If weekly income is below the supplementary welfare for  family of that size, a payment may be made to bring the income up to that rate.  Supplementary welfare allowance is commonly paid when a person is waiting to qualify for other social welfare payments.  Supplementary welfare allowance is not taxable.

A person may qualify for supplementary welfare allowance if he is resident in the State,  satisfies the means test, has applied for other benefits or allowances to which he may be entitled, satisfies a habitual residence test and  has registered with Solas, if of working age.

The exceptional needs payment does not apply to EU,  EEA and Swiss nationals working in Ireland.  Job seekers from  those countries are subject to habitual residence tests in the normal way.

A person may not qualify for supplementary welfare allowance if he is in fulltime work, fulltime education or involved in a trade dispute. Supplementary welfare allowance may be available where the person works less than 30 hours per week.

This condition does not apply to spouses and civil partners.  However, their income is relevant to the means test.  Dependants may receive supplementary welfare allowance where the applicant is involved in a trade dispute.

The means test takes account of most income, including most social welfare payments. It takes account of the value of benefits or privileges.  In the case of a person under 25 years living with a parent or stepparent,  some of parents’ allowance is taken into account in calculating supplementary welfare allowance.  Account is taken of the benefit and privilege of living at home.

The value of investments, savings and properties is calculated.  The first €5,000  is disregarded.  The next €10,000 is taken into account at 5.2 percent.  The next €25,000 at 10.4 percent and everything else is taken into account at 20.8 percent.  The value of the home is not taken into account. Income of a spouse, partner or co-habiting person is taken into account.

Supplementary allowance may be repaid if  where a payment entitlement to other payments is established.  It is a deduction from arrears of the other payments.

In certain circumstance there are urgent needs payments must be repaid as for example when a compensation payment is ultimately received.

Supplementary welfare allowance comprises a basic rate and an addition for an adult and  dependent.  The child dependent must be under 18 years  or between 18 and 22 years if in full-time education.

There is a reduced maximum rate payable for persons under 25 years.  This is increased  in respect of persons, aged between 22 to 24 years.

The reductions for persons under 25 does not apply to those with dependent children, those receiving payments prior to 2009, certain persons in HSE care prior to reaching the age of 18.

The application is made to the Department of Social Protections representative, formerly the community welfare officer at the relevant health centre. The claim  form must be completed. A decision may be appealed to the independent social welfare’s appeals office

The basic test for supplementary welfare allowance is that the person’s means are insufficient for their needs and those of qualified adults and qualified (dependent) children. Certain categories of persons are specifically disqualified. Needs are measured with reference to the appropriate rate for supplementary welfare allowance applicable to that person and/or his dependent spouse.

The applicant should be habitually resident in the State. However, there is an exception in the case of exceptional needs and in cases of urgency.

Potential conditions and exclusions which may be made by regulation include:

  • the person is registered for employment in a prescribed manner;
  •  the person is unemployed; is capable of and available and genuinely seeking work;
  • the person makes an application for benefits or assistance from other States.

There is a much stricter means test applicable to supplementary welfare. There are relatively few types of income and benefit disregarded.

When a husband, wife or civil partners or cohabitants who are part of the same household apply, the needs and means of the household or aggregate and are attributed to the claimant. Only one such person is entitled to the allowance. The means and needs of spouses, civil partners and cohabitants are aggregated.

Supplementary welfare allowance includes a flat rate applicable to the person together with an increment for qualified adults and qualified children.

A qualified adult is a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant (in each case, who has been wholly or mainly maintained by the claimant. A qualified child is a child who is dependent on the applicant for support, under 18 or over 18, attending a course of study, as defined. This is narrow and refers to three-month period after the Leaving Cert

Claimants who have received supplementary welfare allowance for over six months are  subject to conditions different to , those receiving it for less than that period; where the person is under 18, 18 to 22 receiving full-time education or over 18 and attending certain courses of study.

Reduced rates apply between persons, 18 and 21 and separately between 22 and 25.

Under Supplementary Welfare Allowance Rules, there is an assessment of deemed income from capital. The weekly value of property and other assets belonging to the person not being such that it is personally used or enjoyed by the person is assessed. This applies to assets whether or not invested or otherwise put to profitable use by the person or which though capable of investment or profitable, is not invested or put to profitable use.

The weekly value is calculated in accordance with a table set out in the legislation. There is no disregard of property other than personally used property. This differs from the other tests. Capital

Weekly means assessed

  • First €20,000   Nil
  • Next €10,000   €1 per €1,000
  • Next €10,000   €2 per €1,000
  • Balance           €4 per €1,000

The income in cash and non-cash earnings and other non-cash benefits are taken into account.

There is disregarded only a very limited category of income including

  • educational maintenance grant,
  •  prescribed earnings from employment of a rehabilitative nature
  •  certain domiciliary care and guardians’ payments.

In the case of person in receipt of money in respect of mortgage interest relief, following is discounted, €75 of any additional income and 25% or so much of that additional income as exceed €75 when that additional income has been reduced by [tax and social insurance and USC deductions]

The  amount by which carers allowance exceeds the amount of supplementary welfare allowance in the schedule is disregarded where the person or the person’s spouse is in receipt of carers allowance

Where the person not being one of a couple is in receipt of carers allowance;

the amount by which the carers benefit exceeds  the amount of supplementary welfare allowance set out in schedule is disregarded.

Advantages include

  • the value of any advantages, which arise to the person from use and occupation of any assets and property other than a domestic dwelling house or from building, owned, occupied and furniture and any personal effects.
  • All income or value of property, of  which a person is directly or indirectly deprived himself in order to qualify for supplementary welfare allowance is disregarded.

Benefits and privileges are assessed as the weekly value of such benefits and privileges calculated in the prescribed manner

If the person or spouse, civil partner or cohabitant earn income from working a farm the yearly value to the person assessed (gross income minus expenses). If the land is worked but is not being worked to its potential, then an estimate of the potential net yearly value is made.

If a farm is leased, the rental income is assessed. If is not worked or leased, the capital value of the land is assessed.


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