The Social Welfare Act 2014 gave legislative effect to one of the social protection measures announced in the Budget Statement of 14th October 2014 and which was due to take effect from 1 January 2015, i.e. the increase in the monthly rate of Child Benefit. Budget 2015 provided for a number of social protection measures.
- the increase in the Living Alone Allowance, effective from the beginning of January 2015, and
- the payment of a Christmas bonus (25%) to certain social welfare recipients in early December 2014,
were legislated for by way of Regulations
The increase in the monthly rate of Child Benefit provided for in the 2014 Act
Budget 2015 also announced the introduction of a new Back to Work Family Dividend to provide an additional incentive for families to move from welfare to work. The necessary administrative and technical details of this Dividend were provided for in a further Social Welfare Act.
The following other social protection measures which were announced in Budget 2015 related to non-statutory schemes and did not require any legislative amendments—
- the new Water Subsidy worth €100 per annum for all recipients of the Household Benefits Package and for all recipients of the Fuel Allowance who do not already receive the Household Benefits Package,
- the doubling of the number of employees supported by JobsPlus from 3,000 to 6,000,
- additional funding of €12 million in 2015 for the introduction of new employment services (JobPath), and
- additional annual funding of €2 million for the School Meals Programme.
The Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015
The main purpose of this Act is to amend the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 in order to provide the legislative basis for the introduction of the Back to Work Family Dividend, as announced in Budget 2015, to help jobseekers with families and lone parents to return to work. The Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides that this Dividend will not be taxable.
The 2015 Act provided for a number of other changes to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 arising from policy, administrative and operational matters, including—
- the extension of the Jobseeker’s Allowance transitional arrangements to all lone parents where the youngest child is between the ages of 7 and 13 years,
- the strengthening of the legislative provisions relating to the authentication of the identity of a person presenting to a post office for a social welfare payment, and
- the inclusion of the Pyrite Resolution Board in the list of bodies allowed to use PPS numbers.
The 2015 Act provide for a range of consequential amendments to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 arising from the introduction of the Back to Work Family Dividend scheme. References to the Back to Work Family Dividend are made in various general provisions of the Consolidation Act relating to
- making claims for and paying social welfare payments,
- the powers of social welfare inspectors to investigate claims for social welfare payments,
- the powers of deciding officers and appeals officers to make decisions and revised decisions in relation to claims for social welfare payments,
- overpayments and the recovery of overpayments, and
- the exemption of social welfare payments for means test purposes.
The 2015 Act defines the term ‘‘day of unemployment’’ for the purposes of qualification for Jobseeker’s Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance, including the Jobseeker’s Allowance transitional arrangements for former recipients of One-Parent Family Payment.
The 2015 Act was designed to give legislative effect to a range of Social Welfare measures announced in the Budget Statement of 13 October 2015, which were, in the main, due to come into effect in early 2016. The measures in question provided for increases to the pension payable to persons who were over the age of 66 years and their qualified adults, as well as increases in the rate of Child Benefit, Respite Care Grant, (which is renamed as the Carer’s Support Grant) and Family Income Supplement. The Act also provided for an increase in the period for which Carer’s Allowance was payable after the death of the care recipient.
The 2015 Act provided for a new tapered PRSI credit for certain Class A employees and an increase in the upper weekly earnings threshold at which the lower Class A (7.8%) rate of employer PRSI applies.
The 2015 Act provides for increases in the personal rates of certain pensions (for those aged 66 and over) as well as increases for the qualified adults of those persons.
In the case of Death Benefit recipients who have attained pensionable age the rate of benefit is increased by €3. The weekly personal rate of the State Pension (Contributory) was increased from €230.30 to €233.30. An additional €2 was payable where a qualified adult is under 66 years of age. In the case of a qualified adult over 66 years of age an additional increase of €2.70 is payable.
In the case of recipients of Carer’s Allowance, the additional payment for beneficiaries who had attained pensionable age was increased, from €35.00 to €38.00 in the case of a beneficiary who cares for one person, and from €52.50 to €57.00 in the case of a beneficiary who cares for more than one person.
In the case of Invalidity Pension, the additional amount payable in respect of a qualified adult who attained the age of 66 before 2 January 2014 was increased by €2.70 (from €68.20 to €70.90). In the case of Deserted Wife’s Benefit, Widow’s, Widower’s and Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension, the additional increase for a beneficiary who had attained pensionable age was increased from €36.80 to €39.80.
In the case of Incapacity Supplement, the additional amount payable in respect of a beneficiary who had attained the age of 66 years was increased from €16.30 to €19.30 while the additional amount payable in respect of a qualified adult who has attained the age of 66 years is increased from €10.80 to €12.80.
The 2015 Act came into operation in respect of the Invalidity Pension and Deserted Wife’s Benefit increases on 7 January 2016, and in respect of the increases to Incapacity Supplement, Death Benefit, State Pension (Contributory), Widow’s (Contributory) Pension, Widower’s (Contributory) Pension and Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension, on 8 January 2016.
The 2015 Act provided for an increase in the monthly rate of Child Benefit, from €135 to €140.
The 2015 Act provided for an increase of €5 per week in the Family Income Supplement (FIS) earnings threshold for families with one child and €10 per week in thresholds for families containing two or more children.
The 2015 Act provided for the period for which Carer’s Allowance is payable following the death of the person being cared for, to be extended to a period of twelve weeks. Currently, the period of payment is six weeks.
The 2015 Act provided for the following changes in Pay-Related Social Insurance (PRSI):
- A new tapered PRSI Credit for employees insured at Class A whose earnings are between €352.01 and €424 per week,
- An increase in the upper threshold at which the lower (7.8%) Class A rate of employer PRSI applies from €356 to €376 per week.