Discuss the payment of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance in Ireland’s system of income maintenance. In discussing the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (S. W. A) this essay will give a brief description of its inception into Ireland’s income maintenance system and will provide a brief outline of the different types of payment under the scheme. This essay will show the method in which it is administered and the costs involved in the scheme. The discussion will outline some of the major advantages and disadvantages as well as the S. W. A objectives and how they are compatible with other organisations.
Finally this essay will look at how the scheme is viewed by organisations concerned with the S. W. A The Social Welfare (Supplementary Welfare Allowance) Bill was introduced in 1975, by the then Parliament secretary of Minister of Social Welfare Frank Cluskey with these words ‘‘I regard this as an important step forward in the development of the Social Services and one that is long overdue. The Poor Law was the legal embodiment of the attitudes of the last century, harsh and unfeeling attitudes which should have no place in the society of today. ‘The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is designed to fulfil a residual and support role within the overall income maintenance structure’. (Cluskey F. 1975 cited in Department of Social and Family Affairs (DSFA), 2004, p. 17). It did not come into effect until July 1977 and the main aim was to provide a minimum weekly income for people residing in the state. There are a number of different types of payment under the S. W. A These are a Basic payment which is paid out to people with either no income or an income lower than the S. W. A to bring them up to this level.
This type is known as a non-interim basic payment and is normally paid on a weekly basis. Sick no Benefit is a payment to people who are sick and not receiving a primary payment (this can be unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit) from the Department of Social and Family Affairs on production of evidence from their doctor. An Interim basic payment is paid to people while they are awaiting a primary payment; it is normally repaid once the claim comes through. Supplements are paid to people either weekly or monthly if their income is too low to meet certain needs.
These include; Rent supplements; given to people to assist them with accommodation in the private rented sector. Mortgage Interest Supplement are payable to people on social welfare payments to assist with repayment of mortgage interest only. Diet supplement; People on welfare payments with special dietary requirements resulting from a health issue can apply for assistance towards the food costs. Exceptional Needs Payments; these are once-off payments for exceptional purposes such as essential household equipment or funeral expenses.
Urgent Needs Payment; this can even be paid to people who do not qualify for a welfare payment in the event of a fire or flood to assist with food, clothing and shelter. (DFSA 2006) Other payments that are included under the S. W. A scheme include; The Back to School Clothing and Footwear allowance to assist with costs of school going children. National Fuel Scheme to assist with fuel costs during the winter months, there is an additional allowance for smokeless fuel in areas where coal is banned. Travel Supplement to assist people who have recurring travel expenses such as visiting sick relatives, family in prison or children in care.
Creche Supplement to pay for a child to attend a creche while parents can attend parenting courses. Heating Supplement; for people in receipt of a welfare payment who have exceptional heating bills due to illness or infirmity. Monetary Advice and Budgetary Services (MABS) Supplement paid to people who are in debt working with this organisation to repay the debt. (DSFA 2006). The basic role of the S. W. A is to provide a ‘safety net’ to prevent people from falling into poverty and receiving a minimum weekly allowance. The 2008 figure for this is €197. 0, with an additional payment of €131. 30 for dependant adults and €24 for dependant children. (DSFA 2007). The payment is administered through the Department of Social and Family Affairs by 53 Superintendent Community Welfare Officers and 700 Community Welfare Officers across 1,050 offices within 10 Regional Health Boards. (DSFA, 2004, p. 25). Although a S. W. A payment should be automatic for people in need of an income there are a number of conditions to qualify; you must prove you are living in Ireland, you have to satisfy a means test, you must be registered for ork with FAS and you must have applied for any other benefits you are entitled to. When a Community Welfare Officer is carrying out a means test to access eligibility they will look at a person’s income, their savings and investments, if they are under 25, the value of free board and lodgings by living in the family home, and for people married or co-habiting the spouse’s income. Once the C. W. O is satisfied the applicant is in need of a S. W. A, they normally issue a cheque there and then, and inform the applicant of a review date for the continuation of the S. W. A. The cost of the S.
W. A in 2006 was €635 million (DSFA 2006). Table 1 shows a breakdown of the cost for each of the major payments in 2006. Table 1 Recipients and expenditure 2006 Recipients€000s Basic S. W. A25,330 139,189 Rent Supplement59,861 388,339 Mortgage Interest Supplements (M. I. S) 3,023 7,377 Local Authority M. I. S 401 496 Other Supplements18,495 13,533 Exceptional & Urgent Needs Payments not possible 61,138 Back to School Clothing and Footwear161,451 24,892
Total € 634,964 . (Statistical Information on Social Welfare Services 2006) The above table does not give a figure for the total amount of people aided by the S. W. A in 2006. This is due to the Department not being able to calculate how many people received Exceptional & Urgent Needs Payments in total, some people may have received this type of payment a couple of times a year (DSFA 2006). They did give a figure of around 4000 payments which were made weekly. As you can see from the above figures, rent supplements are the biggest expenditure of the S.
W. A scheme. It is an essential part of the S. W. A, enabling people to rent accommodation from the private rental sector when they are unable to afford to purchase their own homes, but is it possible that this money could be utilised in a much better way? It is of the opinion of this student that if even €200 million of this was put towards building new social houses, over 1025 new houses could be build, reducing the amount of people on social housing lists. (Calculations based on Central Statistics Office 2008 figures) Advantages of the S. W.
A can be summarised as follows; it provides a basic income to people preventing absolute poverty. It assists people who can not afford their own homes. It helps people with mortgage interest payments. It is of benefit to sick people with heating and dietary requirements. It is absolutely crucial to the 370,000-400,000 people with disabilities in Ireland as 80% of them are not employed (Good 2003). People have money until their social welfare claim comes through. A number of disadvantages of the S. W. A. have been identified, these include the following; the amount of €197. 0 is still €20. 79 below the 60% median income level of €218. 59 resulting in 720,744 people living in poverty (CORI Justice 2008). It excludes certain categories of people who are at risk of poverty, such as students. A student not receiving a top-up grant receives a grant of €3,420 resulting in a weekly income of €95, out of which they must pay rent and food with no possibility of S. W. A. (Citizens Information 2008). Couples living together get paid less than if they were single. A couple receive €330. 33 (second person receives 67%) as opposed to €395. 0 (CORI Justice 2008). The system is susceptible to fraud. 311,000 people have been caught making fraudulent welfare claims over the past 5 years (Ferry 2008). People relying on the S. W. A rent supplement often have to rely on the lower price end of the rental market; this can often be of a very low quality. One in five of the estimated 200,000 private rental properties have been found to be substandard. (Shanley. 2008) The main objectives of the S. W. A scheme have been described as follows; to provide a standard minimum income, in an immediate and flexible manner, to hose whose means are insufficient to meet their basic needs. To provide income support in the form of a weekly/monthly supplement to those with additional specific needs identified either in association with other personal and social services or on an individual basis that cannot be met from their standard minimum income. To financially support, by way of a single payment, any individuals who have once-off exceptional urgent needs, identified either in association with other personal and social services or on an individual basis that cannot be met from their standard minimum income. (DSFA 2006 p. 2). The Department of Social and Family Affairs (2006) believes that the objectives are compatible with it’s own and the Department of Health and Children’s Statement of Strategy as well as the National Anti-Poverty Strategy, the National Action Plan against Poverty & Social Exclusion, the Programme for Government and Sustaining Progress 2003-2005 which basically all want to eliminate all people, adults and children from experiencing poverty. In 2000 the Department of Social and Family Affairs decided a review of the S. W. A scheme was needed to address changes in the scheme and spiralling costs.
It was carried out in two phases by a Working Group (W. G) with the Phase II report published in November 2006. The W. G concluded the system for basic S. W. A payments was effective in meeting people’s needs, that the criteria for exclusion was valid, and eligibility criteria was satisfactory. With regards to rent supplement it concluded that it provides support to both short and long term housing needs. The W. G found that the system of Exceptional Needs and Urgent Needs payments were ineffective and inconsistent in meeting the needs of target groups (DSFA 2006).
When it comes to means testing, it recommended that the first 5000 of personal capital should not be taken into account. Finally it concluded that all the different payments should be unified under one income support system and the Community Welfare Service would be the best way to deliver the system (DSFA 2006). The most important section of the S. W. A is the rent supplement, as I have already shown it is the greatest expenditure of the S. W. A scheme. The original intention of the scheme to be a last resort for people has become a cornerstone of meeting social housing needs.
This student believes that without this scheme it is possible that there could nearly be 60,000 extra people homeless. This has led the S. W. A Rent Supplement to be the focus of many organisations that advocate for the homeless and social inclusion. A discussion paper (2002) carried out by Comhairle and Threshold found a number of problems facing people who rely on Rent Supplement. These problems include landlords refusing to take rent supplement, a lack of information about the scheme, and the rent supplement acting as a disincentive to people taking up low-paid employment (Citizens Information 2008).
On the plus side it also reports that a Review on the Role of Supplementary Welfare Allowance in Relation to Housing in 1995 concluded that rent supplement is a low cost method to house single people, that it is a way of ensuring social integration and that it has a discretionary method of addressing people’s needs. (Citizens Information 2008) A new Rental Assistance Scheme (R. A. S) introduced by the government in 2004, which provides good quality housing rented from private landlords for people in receipt of rent supplement for 18 months has been praised by CORI Justice. It reports that between 2005 and the end of 2007 the R.
A. S has helped 11,002 people with long-term housing needs, which exceeded the target of 10, 000 (CORI Justice 2008). CORI Justice will continue to monitor this scheme and states it looks forward to its development and expansion. This essay has shown that the S. W. A is a vital part of Ireland’s income maintenance system. Without it there would be many more people suffering from poverty. It ensures that people in need have an income at least to sustain themselves. The system does have a number of flaws, but basically it fulfils the role it is intended for. The biggest expenditure of the S. W.
A goes on rent supplement; this is something the Government needs to address. Saying that, it does provide an invaluable service as it prevents a lot more homelessness in our society and recent new incentives such as R. A. S is proving to be a success References Central Statistics Office (2008) Construction/ Principal Statistics [online] available at: http://www. irisheu-silc. net/statistics/ann_house_building_cost_index. htm [accessed 19 April 2008]. Citizens Information (2008) Research and Social Policy Reports [online], available at: http://comhairle. ie/social/social_research_rentsupplements. html [accessed 20 April 2008].
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