Primary Social Welfare Payments
Primary social welfare payment rates such as Disability Allowance, Blind Pension, Carers Benefit and Carers Allowance were not changed although there were some significant changes to the eligibility criteria for Disability Allowance for new applicants aged between 16 years and 21 years.
From January 2012, the age of entitlement for Disability Allowance, for new applicants will increase to 18 years in line with other social welfare payments. As a compensatory measure, the age of entitlement for Domiciliary Care Allowance will be extended from 16 years to 18 years of age.
Furthermore, for new claimants aged 18 to 24 years the rates of payments will be aligned with the jobseekers allowance rate for that age group i.e. €100 for people aged 18 – 21 and 144 for people aged 21 to 24. Persons under the age of 25 already in receipt of the full rate of Disability Allowance are not effect by this change.
In cases where people under 25 years of age, who are currently getting Disability Allowance, take up opportunities for education or training (e.g. by availing of the Back-to-Education scheme or Community Employment) and subsequently revert to Disability Allowance, they will not be subject to the reduced rates.
The Government has conceded that the above changes will cause some individuals undue hardship and have given a commitment to review the changes before they come into force. If the changes come into force one of the consequences will be that those aged between 16 and 18 years may not be entitled to a medical card as their parents income will be assessed as apposed to their own. Normally recipients of the full weekly Disability Allowance qualify for a medical card.
New applicants for Disablement Benefit must have a disability classified at more than 15% in order to qualify for the payment
Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit
The weekly Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit payment rates have not been changed. The half rate Carer’s will continue to be paid to people who are full-time carers and who are receiving another welfare payment. The increased payment for those caring for more than one person is also being retained.
Carers will also continue to get the annual Respite Care Grant of €1,700 for each care recipient.
However, new applicants for Carer’s Allowance, who are not living with the person for whom they are providing care will no longer be entitled to the Household Benefits package, which comprises of Electricity/Gas Allowance, Telephone Allowance and free television licence.
Carers who reside with the person they are caring for will continue to have an entitlement to the Household Benefits. Similarly, non-resident carers in receipt of the package prior to 1st April 2012 will continue to retain the benefit.
From January 2012, Child Benefit will be maintained at €140 per month for each of the first two children. The rates applying to the third and subsequent children will be standardised at €140 per child per month over the next two years. In 2012 the monthly rate for the third child will be €148 and for the fourth and each subsequent child will be €160.
Back to school
The eligibility age for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance is being increased from 2 years of age to 4 years. In addition the rates of payments are being reduced from €305 to €250 for children aged 12 years or more and from €200 to €150 for children aged 4 to 11 years.
The Cost of Education Allowance, the annual grant that accompanies the Back to Education Allowance, will reduce from €500 to €300.
The period of eligibility for fuel allowance will be reduced by 6 weeks from 32 weeks to 26 weeks for all recipients.
Income from weekly carers payments will be included for the purposes of calculating entitlement to Family Income Supplement in line with other welfare payments.
Hearing Aid Grant
The frequency of the grant for hearing aids will change from 2 years to 4 years.