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Know your Rights: April 2012

Social welfare interviews   

Q. My Jobseeker’s Benefit claim is at an end and I have applied for Jobseeker’s Allowance. I’ve been told I must make myself available for interview. Why is there an interview?

Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) is a PRSI-based payment and it does not have a means test. The maximum amount of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) is the same as the maximum rate of JB, but JA is means-tested. During a means test the Department of Social Protection (DSP) examines all your sources of income. The means test may involve an interview. Such interviews are a routine part of how the DSP processes claims for mean-tested payments. When you claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, an officer of the Department will decide if your claim can be allowed immediately, or if it must be referred for interview.
If you are referred for interview that interview usually takes place in your local social welfare office. However, you might be interviewed at home if, for example, you have been self-employed or in casual short-term employment, or if supporting evidence needs to be verified. During the interview the social welfare inspector may ask you to produce documents such as accounts or statements from your financial institution.
A decision on your means is made by a separate Deciding Officer.
If you are unhappy with the decision made on your application for JA you can appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office. You should appeal within 21 days of being told the decision on your application. Contact the Social Welfare Appeals Office, D’Olier House, D’Olier Street, Dublin 2.
Lo-call: 1890 74 74 34.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights has been compiled by Blanchardstown/D15 Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public. Tel: 0761 07 5040 Address: Snugborough Rd Ext, Blanchardstown, D15.
Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, Lo-call 1890 777 121.


Rent Supplement and rent limits

Q. I am getting a One-Parent Family Payment and my Rent Supplement claim is being reviewed. My current rent is over the new limit but I am tied into a lease for another 4 months. Will I be asked to move out of my home?

In January 2012 the Department of Social Protection (DSP) reduced the maximum level of rent that it will accept for Rent Supplement purposes. The reduced rent limits applied to new claimants immediately. They are being applied to existing claimants when their claims are reviewed or if they move to new accommodation (see citizensinformation.ie for the limits, which vary from area to area).
In your situation the DSP will ask you to re-negotiate your rent with your landlord. If the landlord insists that the terms of the current lease are not negotiable and does not reduce the rent to the new limits, the DSP representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer or CWO) will discuss your options with you. These may include seeking other accommodation. If this occurs you will continue to be paid Rent Supplement for a reasonable period of time while you secure new accommodation.
In some cases Rent Supplement can be paid at the discretion of the DSP representative where the rent is over the relevant limit. These situations include the following:

  • If you or a member of your household has special housing needs (for example, a person with a disability in specially adapted accommodation).
  • If you will be able to pay the rent yourself within a short period, for example, if you are taking up employment. In this case Rent Supplement at a higher rate can be paid for a short period of 6-8 weeks.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights has been compiled by Blanchardstown/D15 Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public. Tel: 0761 07 5040 Address: Snugborough Rd Ext, Blanchardstown, D15.
Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, Lo-call 1890 777 121.


State Pension (Contributory)

Q. My husband and I both turn 66 this year. He’s a little older than me and is entitled to a pension from the end of March 2012. I’ll be 66 in early June. We’ve both sent in our claims for State Pension (Contributory). Is it true that our pension entitlements will be calculated differently?

Yes, your claims will be treated differently since the rules about the number of paid contributions you need to qualify for a contributory State Pension change on 6 April 2012.
Your husband will reach pension age before 6 April 2012. He needs 260 paid PRSI contributions to be eligible for a contributory pension. Effectively, this means five years contributions, however they don’t need to be five consecutive years.

Since you will reach pension age after 6 April 2012, the new rules apply and you will need to have 520 paid contributions (10 years of contributions) but again, they do not need to be consecutive. You can use voluntary contributions to satisfy part of this requirement if you meet certain conditions.
You both need a yearly average of 48 contributions to qualify for a full-pension and a yearly average of 10 contributions to qualify for a minimum pension. There will be changes to the yearly average rate bands from 1 September 2012 but these changes will not affect you or your husband (since both pensions will be in payment before 1 September).
You should make sure that you apply for your pension on time. From April 2012 you can only backdate your claim for a State Pension (Contributory) for a maximum of 6 months. The Department of Social Protection will only consider backdating your claim for more than 6 months if your failure to claim was a result of incorrect information being supplied by the DSP or because you were incapacitated by illness.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights has been compiled by Blanchardstown/D15 Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public. Tel: 0761 07 5040 Address: Snugborough Rd Ext, Blanchardstown, D15.
Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, Lo-call 1890 777 121.


Tax credits and social welfare payments

Q. I get a State Pension (Contributory) and the Increase for a Qualified Adult I get for my wife is paid directly into her bank account. So my total weekly pension is paid into two separate accounts. Are we entitled to claim two PAYE tax credits?

The State Pension is taxable, but you will only pay tax on it if your overall income is greater than the amount of your tax credits or tax exemption threshold. (You are exempt from income tax if you are 65 or over and your annual total income is less than €18,000 if single, or €36,000 if married or in a civil partnership.)

While you are getting a State Pension, you are entitled to a PAYE tax credit in addition to your personal tax credit. (In 2012 the personal tax credit for married people or civil partners is €3,300 and the PAYE tax credit is €1,650.)

A married person or civil partner is not entitled to a PAYE tax credit if their only source of income is the Increase for Qualified Adult (IQA) payment from the Department of Social Protection (DSP). This applies whether or not the IQA is paid directly to the qualified adult.

In your case only one pension is being paid which includes an increase in the payment for your wife as a qualified adult. Your wife is not entitled to a PAYE tax credit because she does not have PAYE income in her own right. This is the case for all taxpayers and not only for people who receive a pension from the DSP.         

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights has been compiled by Blanchardstown/D15 Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public. Tel: 0761 07 5040 Address: Snugborough Rd Ext, Blanchardstown, D15.
Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, Lo-call 1890 777 121.



Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm
Tuesdays: 9am to 1pm only
Monday evenings: 7.30pm to 9pm by appointment
Telephone: 0761 07 5040 National LoCall number: 1890 777 121
Email: Blanchardstown@citinfo.ie