The Citizens Information Service explains how you could be missing out on valuable supports. “What we frequently see is that people don’t know what they are entitled to”
Citizens Information has explained how you could be missing out on valuable supports and payments every year.
John Beausang, Development Manager for Citizens Information in Cork City North, said he understands that many can find the system confusing and overwhelming and he shared some of the key payments and entitlements you could be missing out on. He urged “whatever situation you are in, whatever your stage in life we are here to help. Our service is free, confidential, and non-judgemental and we give informed advice and support.”
John told the Glanmire Area News “It can be very challenging to understand and access the system and we meet many people who don’t know what they are entitled to or what is their best option”. Generally if people are looking to access social welfare it is often at a time of difficulty when they’re dealing with other issues too. The Citizens Information website is a useful source of information on a wide range of issues and you can speak to one of our staff who will explain the relevant information and outline your options so that you can make an informed decision on what’s right for you.”
There are three different types of social welfare payments; There’s universal benefits such as child benefit, available to the parents or guardians of a child. Then there are contributory benefits/pensions based on PRSI contributions e.g. Job Seekers Benefit, and non-contributory allowances which are based on your means e.g. Job Seekers Allowance.
John insisted however that there were plenty of other schemes and entitlements that many people could be eligible for, without even realising.
One such payment that people are entitled to that they sometimes aren’t aware of is the Working Family Payment.
“For example, if you’re working and have two children, and your take home pay per week is less than €642 you could be entitled to a Working Family Payment top-up, basically you get 60% of the difference between your income and the threshold for your family type.
“If your income was €542 and you had two children, you could get €60 a week under the Working Family Payment. A lot of people would not be aware of that.”
John added: “Another one that we would mention is the Carer’s Support Grant. It’s €1,850 a year, paid automatically in June to those on Carers Allowance/Benefit or Domiciliary Care Allowance and it’s not taxable. If however as a carer you are not getting one of these payments you may still qualify under certain conditions that are not onerous and do not include means testing and you can apply right up to the 31st December of the following year. This is a really good payment that many people aren’t aware of.”
The other one he would flag up is the medical card, a lot of people who are entitled to the medical card don’t apply.
“People under 70 look at the income threshold and it appears low, however when you add on allowable expenses like childcare costs, rent or mortgage payments, reasonable travel expenses to work this increases the income limit and could help you qualify for a medical card. Even if your income is above the limit, you may still be able to get a medical card if your circumstances would result in financial hardship without one. This is sometimes called a discretionary medical card. There is also the GP Visit Card which has higher income limits.”
“Concerning retirement at 65, if you have stopped working and meet the PRSI conditions you may qualify for a Benefit Payment for 65 year Olds which is a relatively new payment. At 66 you may qualify for the State Pension and people are advised to apply three months in advance, however we would have people contacting us, aged say 69 who have passed the pension age but are continuing to work, and they don’t realise that they can draw down their pension at 66 even if they’re still working. That all sounds relatively easy, but people don’t know about it”.
Another payment is the Supplementary Welfare Allowance payment for exceptional and urgent needs. This is a single payment to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. There is the potential for example to get an exceptional needs payment for the likes of essential items for someone setting up a home for the first time; visiting relatives in hospital or prison; or funeral costs, among other expenses. “Eligibility and the amount of payment you may get very much depends on the type of assistance you need as well as a means test.”
For anyone needing information and support in understanding their social welfare entitlements, please call a member of the South Munster Citizens Information team in Cork City North on 0761 07 6880 who will be happy to assist. They are available Monday to Friday from 10am to 4.30pm. Alternatively people can access www.citizensinformation.ie for further information and contact details.