Dáil Éireann - Volume 474 - 29 January, 1997

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

[174] 43. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Welfare the amount of unemployment assistance a married couple with one child dependant earning a self-employed income of £6,000 per annum is entitled to; the amount of lone parent's allowance to which a lone parent with one child dependant earning a self-employed income of £6,000 per annum is entitled. [1090/97]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Under the conditions of the recently introduced one parent family payment, a lone parent can earn £6,000 a year and retain title to the maximum rate of payment. Thus, a lone parent with one child dependant and earnings from self-employment of £6,000 a year is currently entitled to a weekly rate of £79.70. This will rise to £82.70 in June following the implementation of the increases in social welfare payments announced in the budget.

Where a couple is concerned, the maximum weekly rate of unemployment assistance payable with no means for the claimant, spouse/partner and one child is £116.20 a week (to be increased to £120.70 in June). The weekly amount of unemployment assistance payable is the maximum weekly rate less the weekly value of the means. The means would be calculated as the £6,000 earnings from self-employment with expenses (all work-related expenses, travel, PRSI, tax and medical insurance) being excluded. As the expenses to be excluded from means assessment will obviously vary from case to case, it is not possible to determine the exact amount of unemployment assistance payable without this information. However, as an example, assuming the client's expenses to be disregarded were £4,000 a year, which would not be unusual, the means assessed would be £2,000, giving a weekly unemployment assistance rate of £78.20.

I should point out that as part of the social welfare improvements announced in this year's budget, when a claimant's spouse is working, the adult dependant allowance will remain in payment, at a reducing rate, until the spouse's earnings exceed £90 a week, instead of being totally withdraw when earnings exceed £60 a week. This improvement will come into effect from October next.

However, the two schemes — one parent family payment and unemployment assistance — are not directly comparable. While entitlement to unemployment assistance is based on the claimant being unemployed, the one parent family payment addresses the contingency of lone parenthood and entitlement is not based on the employment status of the claimant. Research has shown that one parent families are vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion, and the one parent family payment is designed as an income support mechanism to take into account the special needs and requirements of single parents raising children and maintaining a household on their own. [175] The one parent family payment is also aimed at facilitating lone parents' return to the workforce by providing positive support, so that over time, they can become less reliant on social welfare payments for their income needs. This is the rationale behind disregarding a lone parent's earnings up to £6,000 for means purposes.

The different methods of assessing earnings as between the various social assistance schemes reflect specific policies being pursued by the Department, which are aimed at targeting particular groups of recipients for special attention, and are designed to take account of the fact that different categories of social welfare recipients have differing needs.