Social welfare is a broad and encompassing term that is used to describe the support system for people in Ireland who may need full or partial financial support due to unemployment, illness or other mitigating factors that may prevent full employment.
The umbrella term includes but is not limited to supports such as Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Supplementary Welfare Allowance and Rent Allowance.
Whether you are a returning Irish citizen or a newcomer to Ireland, the likelihood is that you will want to secure reliable employment after arriving in Ireland. However, certain obstacles may need to be overcome, potentially preventing you from taking up secure employment. If this happens, or you find yourself out of work for other reasons, it is important that you know which social welfare payments you may be entitled to.
This brief guide will outline your social welfare entitlements while in Ireland, and the rights and responsibilities associated with these payments.
Jobseeker’s Benefit is a payment that is currently capped at €188 for adults and is made payable to residents in Ireland who are unemployed and have paid a sufficient amount of social (PRSI) contributions.
These contributions will generally need to have been made in the last two years. However, if you have worked in another European Economic Area (EEA) country before coming to Ireland, then you may be able to combine the social contributions paid in that country with your PRSI in Ireland. Unfortunately, this requirement often precludes many newcomers and returning Irish citizens who are moving to Ireland from non-EEA countries from accessing these supports. Jobseeker’s Benefit is available as a full-time or part-time payment depending on your individual circumstances.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that non-EEA migrant workers can avail of Jobseeker’s Benefit provided they fulfil the PRSI contributions thresholds and are legally resident in Ireland. If you think that you do not fulfil the requirements for Jobseeker’s Benefit, then you may want to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance (see below). However, if you are still uncertain of your qualification credentials, then it would be a good idea to visit your local Intreo office.
If you are not entitled for Jobseeker’s Benefit, you may nonetheless be eligible to apply for and receive Jobseeker’s Allowance. Unlike Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance is a means-tested payment that does not require PRSI contributions. However, to qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance you need to be unemployed, actively looking for work and be able to pass a means test. This means test will take into account your income, as well as that of your spouse or partner and your parents, if applicable. Certain exemptions may also apply. As well as the means test, you will also need to satisfy a Habitual Residence Condition (HRC)
In essence, the HRC is a residential means test that needs to be satisfied in order for an individual to qualify for the majority of social welfare payments in Ireland. The test is designed to determine if the social welfare applicant has made Ireland their home and ‘centre of interest’. There are five factors that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection takes into account when it comes to HRC and establishing your ‘centre of interest’ in Ireland.
Our friends at the Crosscare Migrant Project have produced a detailed breakdown of the HRC and have provided answers to a range of relevant questions. Crosscare’s information on HRC, as well as social welfare more broadly, is comprehensive, reliable and well-sourced, and we recommend referring to this information without hesitation.
Supplementary Welfare Allowance
If you are an EEA migrant worker who does not qualify for Jobseeker’s Benefit, then you can still satisfy the HRC requirement for Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) provided you are actively looking for work. If you have been working in Ireland for less than a year, then you will be entitled to SWA for six months from the day your employment ended. However, if you have been working in Ireland for more than a year, then you are entitled to SWA for the duration that you are looking for work.
Disability allowance is a weekly allowance that is paid to people aged over 16 in Ireland who may be unable to work because of injury or illness. The payment is paid on a weekly basis and you may also get extra social welfare benefits with your payments and other supplementary welfare payments.
To qualify for Disability Allowance, you must:
- Have an injury, illness or disease that is expected to continue for over a year.
- As a result of this illness, you must be substantially restricted in your ability to undertake work.
- Be between the age of 16 and 66.
- Satisfy a means test and the aforementioned habitual resident condition.
Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)
Rent in Ireland isn’t cheap. Whether you are based in the heart of Dublin City or living in rural Co. Kerry, you need to know that rent is likely to take up a significant chunk of your weekly or monthly expenditure. This burden is much higher if you are out of work. However, assistance is available.
If you are in receipt of Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Supplementary Welfare Allowance and paying rent to a private landlord, then you may be entitled to Rent Supplement, or if you are a new applicant, then a HAP scheme.
As the name suggests, rent supplement is a financial support that assists people who are habitually resident in Ireland with the cost of paying rent. You will need to pass a means test to avail of this supplement, however. Similarly, the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. In essence, HAP will eventually replace long-term Rent Supplement in Ireland.
Immigrant-support services to consider
As well as the social welfare payments referenced above, a range of other non-fiscal support structures exist for migrants in Ireland. This includes bodies such as the Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office, which is responsible for monitoring and co-ordinating police activity in relation to racial, ethnic and religious diversity. This office is also the body primarily responsible for compiling data on racially motivated attacks.
Similarly, you need to take note of your country’s embassy. An embassy or consulate may seem like a very formal location to receive immigration-related assistance but they can prove invaluable help, especially in crisis situations. Embassies possess expertise in the sourcing of travel documents and may also be of assistance if you have been the victim of a crime or during an emergency.
Finally, our friends at Crosscare Migrant Project provide vital assistance to newcomers and returning emigrants alike. In particular, CrossCare Migrant Project staff are concerned with protecting the rights of some of the most marginalised members of Ireland’s immigrant population. Similarly, their drop-in centres are a convenient and confidential way of obtaining relevant information on community engagement opportunities, social welfare rights and responsibilities and a range of other tasks for emigrants returning to Ireland.