Dáil Éireann - Volume 545 - 27 November, 2001
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Ms Clune Ms Clune
270. Ms Clune asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he is in receipt  of correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Cork regarding payment of disability allowance when a spouse or dependant is working; his views on the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29636/01]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The correspondence in question relates to the assessment of a spouse's earnings for disability allowance or DA purposes. As in the case of all other social assistance payments, DA is subject to a means test. For the purposes of assessing means, account is taken of the claimant's own means and, in the case of a couple, the joint means are assessed.
Where the spouse of a claimant to DA has earnings, this can have two separate consequences for the claimant's entitlement to payment. First, a spouse's earnings may affect the claimant's entitlement to the qualified adult allowance. Second, depending on the level of the spouse's earnings, this may affect the claimant's personal entitlement.
A qualified adult allowance is payable in addition to the personal rate of payment in respect of a spouse who is being wholly or mainly maintained by the claimant. In general, a spouse is not regarded as being wholly or mainly maintained by the claimant where they are in receipt of a social welfare payment in their own right or have income in excess of £70, 88.88, a week. However, where a spouse's weekly income is between £70, 88.88, and £145, 184.11, a reduced qualified adult allowance is paid. These amounts are kept under review.
The second consequence of spousal earnings is on the claimant's own entitlement to payment. In assessing the spouse's means for DA purposes, account is taken of the spouse's net earnings, that is earnings net of income tax, PRSI, health insurance contributions, superannuation and union dues. A certain amount of the spouse's earnings from employment is disregarded – £70, 88.88 where they are working 4 days or more, £30, 38.09, where they are working between one and three days. Half of the spouse's net income is then assessed as means.
Any relaxation of the means test along the lines being suggested in the correspondence referred to would have financial implications and would have to be considered in a budgetary context, in the light of available resources and having regard to the Government's other priorities. It would also raise equity issues vis-à-vis other recipients, e.g., it would be difficult to justify disregarding spouse's income in cases of disability allowance and not doing so in the case of other social assistance payments.
Dáil Éireann 545 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.