Dáil Éireann - Volume 495 - 20 October, 1998
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. Penrose Mr. Penrose
291. Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in the assessment of eligibility for carer's allowance the full amount of a REP scheme payment received by a family is included, compared with an application for unemployment assistance where the first £3,000 of a REP scheme payment is disregarded; the steps, if any, he will take to correct this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20466/98]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern) Dermot Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Different categories of social welfare recipients have differing needs and the social welfare system must be flexible to  respond adequately to these needs. The different methods of assessing income as between the various social assistance payment schemes reflects specific policies which are aimed at targeting particular groups of recipients for special attention.
For example, under improved arrangements, which were introduced earlier this year, the first £2,000 of payments under the rural environment protection scheme (REPS) is disregarded, with the balance being assessed at 50 per cent, for the purposes of the unemployment assistance, pre-retirement allowance and old age (non-contributory) pension schemes. This measure is designed to help improve the take-up of REPS, especially for low income farmers receiving social welfare payments.
In recognition of the special contribution which carers make to our society, the carer's allowance scheme provides for a substantial disregard of £150 a week in the amount of income which the spouse of a recipient may have without affecting the carer's entitlement. In addition, where the carer is one of a couple, then the carer's means are taken to be half of the joint means. This means that where the spouse of a carer is farming and receives a REPS payment, the £150 weekly earnings disregard (£7,800 per annum) will apply to that payment. In addition, any REPS payments which are in excess of the yearly £7,800 limit would be assessed at 50 per cent. These provisions are therefore, more favourable than those applying in the case of the unemployment assistance scheme.
However, this income disregard does not currently apply if the REPS payment is being made to the carer. The specific issue of income regards for carers in their own right was discussed in the recent review of the carer's allowance scheme. The issues contained in this review are currently being examined in a budgetary context, in the light of available resources and having regard to the commitments contained in the Government Programme: An Action Programme for the Millennium, Partnership 2000 and the National Anti Poverty Strategy.
Dáil Éireann 495 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.