Wednesday, 24 November 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
90. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the plans, if any, he has to change the system whereby capital, including money as in cash in a bank, post office or otherwise invested, is assessed as means for unemployment assistance at a rate of 5 per cent on the first £400 and 10 per cent on the remainder; and if he will amend this in view of low interest rates. [24791/99]
91. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the limits, if any, on personal savings before they are assessed for long-term unemployment assistance; the plans, if any, he has to raise these thresholds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24651/99]
Arising from difficulties associated with the different treatment of capital under the various social assistance schemes, it was decided by the previous Government to introduce a standardised method of assessing capital. The introduction of the disability allowance scheme in October, 1996 and the one-parent family payment in January, 1997 presented the opportunity to commence the process of extending this revised capital assessment method to all social assistance schemes on a progressive basis. This process has almost been completed, with the extension of the standardised procedures to all social assistance schemes, other than unemployment assistance and supplementary welfare allowance.
Under the revised arrangements, the first £2,000 is disregarded, the next £20,000 is assessed at 7.5 per cent and the balance is assessed at 15 per cent. However, since the standardised method of assessing capital was first introduced in 1996, interest rates available on investments have fallen significantly. In the circumstances, I have arranged for my Department to review the current standardised method of assessing capital.
92. Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reason the disregard of £75 for a single applicant and £150 for a married applicant in relation to the assessment of means for a carer's allowance do not apply where the applicant's income consists of a United Kingdom social security payment; his views on whether this provides equitable treatment to all applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24682/99]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The carer's allowance is a means tested payment for carers on low income who look after people in need of full-time care and attention.
The review of the carer's allowance, which was published in October 1999, recommended that a disregard of £75 per week should be applied to the income of a single carer and a disregard of £150 per week should be applied to the joint means of a married couple. This measure was implemented in August 1999.
The review also examined the issue of paying  the carer's allowance in conjunction with another social welfare payment. The practice of paying only one allowance is a feature, with very few exceptions, of all social welfare payments, including those in payment from another country.
Foreign social security payments are treated in the same manner as their Irish equivalents and are not disregarded when determining income. This ensures that limited resources are not used to make two income payments to any one individual. The review concluded that the payment of two concurrent income support allowances would not be an effective use of resources.
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