Wednesday, 7 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
23. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he has any proposals in relation to the anomaly whereby part-time workers who receive salary increases under the PPF may lose most of their increases due to adjustments in the means assessment on their unemployment benefit. [26850/01]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): In assessing means for unemployment assistance account is taken of any cash income the person may have, for example earnings from employment or self-employment, together with the value of any capital or property. For the purposes of assessing cash income, account is normally taken of the income that the person may reasonably be expected to receive during the coming 12 months. Under the unemployment assistance scheme, where a person works for up to three days a week, earnings are assessed at 60%. In addition, persons without children are allowed a £10 or 12.70 disregard for each day worked, while the balance of earnings is assessed at 60%. These measures are designed to ensure that claimants have an incentive to work at all levels of earnings even where the level of pay is less than the rate of unemployment assistance.
 The introduction of a provision whereby increases provided to part-time employees under partnership agreements would be disregarded for the purposes of the UA means assessment could give rise to serious inequities in the system. First, a claimant taking up part-time work subsequent to the payment of the PPF increase would not benefit from the proposed disregard. This would mean that he/she would receive a lower rate of unemployment assistance than a claimant on the same income who started employment prior to the award of the PPF increase. Secondly, those due a proportionately higher salary increase would stand to gain more from such a disregard. In addition, it would be necessary to provide for an equivalent disregard across the range of means-tested scheme. The implementation of the measure could therefore be extremely costly. The proposed measure would run counter to the underlying purpose of the means tests used by my Department which is to ensure that the limited resources available are directed at those most in need.
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