Additional benefits (medical card, housing and others)
If you are getting a social assistance payment or a social insurance payment from the Department of Social Protection you may be entitled to additional benefits depending on your personal circumstances. (These are sometimes called secondary or extra benefits as they are paid in addition to your main payment.)
To get an additional benefit you must satisfy the qualifying criteria. For example, to get the Living Alone Increase you must be getting certain social welfare payments and be living alone.
In some cases you automatically get an additional benefit. For example, if you get Invalidity Pension you get a Free Travel Pass. However, for most additional benefits you must apply separately. In most cases you must also pass another means test.
If you have an emergency or an urgent need you may be able to get a discretionary payment under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. (The rule about working less than 30 hours does not apply to discretionary payments.)
What help can I get with my housing costs?
If you are renting privately you can apply for Rent Supplement to help with your rent payments. Rent Supplement is a payment under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. You cannot get Rent Supplement if you or your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is working for more than 30 hours a week. Self-employed people can get Rent Supplement if they are working less than 30 hours a week. Claims from self-employed people are assessed on the individual circumstances of the case and you may be asked to show that you are working less than 30 hours a week. If you are working over 30 hours a week in self-employment you must be deemed eligible for the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) by your local authority to continue to get Rent Supplement.
If you cannot afford to buy your own home and do not have suitable alternative accommodation you can apply for local authority housing.
If you are in local authority housing and your income has reduced you should contact your local authority and ask for a review of your rent.
Can I get help with budgeting for household bills?
The Household Budget Scheme is a scheme that helps people getting certain social welfare payments to spread the cost of some household bills over the year. Under this scheme, a fixed amount is deducted from your social welfare payment each week.
The scheme is operated by An Post and to qualify, you must be getting certain social welfare payments whcih is paid through your local post office. The Household Budget Scheme is free of charge.
You may also be eligible for a Fuel Allowance. This is an allowance that provides help with the cost of fuel to people who are dependent on long-term social welfare payments. It is paid for 26 weeks from October to April. If you are getting Jobseeker’s Allowance you must have been getting it for 15 months (390 days) to be considered long-term. Jobseeker’s Benefit is not a long-term payment.
What help can I get with health costs?
If you are on a low income you may be eligible for a medical card. Medical cards entitle you to a range of free health services including doctor visits, medication, in patient and out patient hospital care. If you are a medical card holder you are eligible for a reduced rate of Universal Social Charge, exemption from exam fees and other benefits.
If you do not qualify for a medical card on income grounds, you may qualify for a GP Visit Card. It is also means tested, but the income limits are 50% higher than for the medical card. GP Visit Cards allow individuals and families who qualify to visit their family doctor for free.
What help can I get with the costs of children and school?
Make sure that you are getting a Child Benefit payment for your children aged under 18. This is not means tested.
If you have school-going children and are getting a social welfare payment you may be eligible for a Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. This is an allowance to help with the cost of clothes and footwear for children. It is paid annually and you apply between June and September each year.
You may also be able to avail of a School Book Scheme. Each year the Department of Education and Skills provides grants to primary, secondary and comprehensive schools towards the cost of school books for students in financial need. You should contact the school principal for more information.
Other extra benefits
Most people on jobseeker’s payments do not qualify for the Household Benefits Package or Free Travel. However if you are on another social welfare payment (such as a disability payment) you may qualify.
The Household Benefits Package provides financial assistance with the cost of some household utilities. It includes an Electricity or Gas Allowance and a Free Television Licence.
A Free Travel Pass allows people on certain social welfare payments to access public transport services for free. If you live on a specified island off the Irish coast you can access some private transport services.
Island Increase is a supplementary payment for people getting certain social welfare payments and living on specified islands off the coast of Ireland.
Living Alone Increase is a supplementary payment for people getting certain social welfare payments who are living alone.