Entitlements and schemes you did not realise you were eligible to claim

There are many different social welfare payments available to people living in Ireland and all have different eligibility criteria. Some, such as Child Benefit, are available to the majority of people with children, while others are benefits based on your PRSI contributions and others are means tested. To people unfamiliar with the system, it can be very confusing. According to Anne O’Donovan, Development Manager with the Citizens Information Service in West Cork, it can result in some people not claiming payments which they would be eligible to receive. She gives some examples as follows:

Working Families

Working Family Payment (WFP) is a weekly tax-free payment available to employees with children who meet the eligibility conditions. It gives extra financial support to people on low pay who work at least 38 hours a fortnight. You must be an employee to qualify for WFP and you cannot qualify if you are only self-employed.

Anne O’Donovan gives an example that if your net income was €600 per week and you have three dependent children, you could get €85.80 a week under the Working Family Payment. A lot of people would not be aware of this. 

Family Carers

The Carer’s Support Grant is an annual payment made to carers by the Department of Social Protection (DSP). Carers can use the grant in whatever way they wish. Many people who are eligible do not claim this annual grant.

Anne O’Donovan says that the Carer’s Support Grant will increase to €1,850 in June this year from €1,700 previously. It is available to a person who is caring for someone else on a full-time basis and not working outside the home for more than 18.5 hours per week.  It is not necessary to be in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Benefit to claim this grant. It is also not means-tested.

“We encounter people who are caring full-time for an elderly parent or they may be retired themselves and caring for their spouse. They may have a good standard of living and savings and not be eligible for Carers Allowance, which is means-tested. However, they can apply for the Carers Support Grant, which is paid once a year, usually on the first Thursday in June for those who are eligible. It is not a taxable payment.”

State Pensions

Citizens Information also get calls from people in their late 60s, who have passed the State Pension age, paid their contributions, but are continuing to work. Some of these people do not realise that you can claim your pension from 66 even if you’re still working. Also if you are on the means-tested State Pension (Non-Contributory), you can earn €200 each week if you are an employee (not self-employed) and it will not impact on your pension amount

Treatment Benefit 

There have been improvements to the Treatment Benefit Scheme, which is available to workers (both employees and self-employed) and retired people who have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions. The amount of PRSI contributions that you need depends on your age.  

From March 27, 2021, you can get the full cost of a hearing aid up to a maximum of €500 or €1000 for a pair. Before this date, you had to pay at least half the cost of a hearing aid and repairs. For example, if a hearing aid costs €600, you now only pay €100 for one aid or €200 for a pair. The scheme also covers the full cost of repairs to aids, up to a maximum of €100.

Some people may not be aware that if you do not have enough PRSI contributions of your own, you may be able to qualify using your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant’s PRSI record. 

Medical Card

There are people who may be eligible for a medical card but they are reluctant to apply as the income thresholds for people aged under 70 seem very low. However, Citizens Information point out that while they would appear low, you can add on things like mortgage payments, reasonable travel expenses to work, and so you can increase the income threshold by including allowable expenses.

Further information in relation to all of the above schemes is available from your local Citizens Information Centre. To check if you are eligible for these or any other schemes you should telephone the West Cork Citizens Information Helpline: 0761 07 8390. They will discuss your current circumstances with you and make you aware of any entitlements that are available to you. You may be entitled to something that you did not realise was available to you.

For anyone needing information, advice or who have an advocacy issue, they can call a member of the local Citizens Information team in West Cork on 0761 07 8390, they will be happy to assist and make an appointment if necessary.  The offices are staffed from Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm.  Alternatively, you can email at bantry@citinfo.ie or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie for further information and contact details.


What is an emergency medical card and how do I apply for one?

An emergency medical card is a medical card that you can get without a means test in certain emergency situations.

You can get an emergency medical card if you:

Have a terminal illness and have been told you have 24 months or less to live; Are getting end-of-life treatment; Need urgent ongoing care and urgently need a medical card.

Only a healthcare professional (for example, a doctor or consultant) can apply for an emergency medical card for you. They will send the application to the HSE.

If your application is approved, it can take up to 10 days to get your medical card in the post. However, your card will be active within 24 hours of your application being processed.  Your GP, pharmacy and hospital staff will see your card is active on their systems. This means you can access medical card services while you wait for your card in the post.

If you get a medical card because you have a terminal illness and have been told you have 24 months or less to live, the HSE will never review your card and your card will never expire.

If you get a medical card because you are receiving end-of-life treatment, the HSE will never review your card and your card will never expire. End-of-life treatment means you have been told you have less than 12 months left to live.

If you get a medical card because you need urgent ongoing care and urgently need a medical card, your card will expire after six months. You will need to complete a means assessment before your emergency medical card expires. The HSE will write to you to remind you to do this.

You can get more information from the National Medical Card Unit on (051) 595 129, or lo-call 1890 252 919 or you can contact your local Citizens Information Centre.

You can read more about emergency medical cards on citizensinformation.ie

I’m doing my Leaving Certificate this year and plan to go to college in the autumn. How do I apply for a student grant?

Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) awards higher and further education grants to people living in Ireland.

You complete an application form online to apply to SUSI. You must have an online account with SUSI before you can make your application. SUSI accepts grant applications for the 2021-2022 academic year from 22 April 2021.

You can use SUSI’s eligibility reckoner to see whether you meet the criteria for student grant funding.

These include:

* You must be an Irish, UK, EU, EEA or Swiss national. You may also be considered for a grant if you have refugee status, subsidiary protection or leave to remain in Ireland.

* You must have been ordinarily resident in Ireland for three of the last five years.

* Your family’s means must be under the specified threshold for the previous tax year (2020). If you or your family have had a change of circumstances during the tax year, your changed circumstances may be taken into account.

* You must be attending a course that is approved for a student grant. You can see the list of approved institutions and courses on SUSI’s website.

If you are refused a grant or are approved a grant at a rate that you don’t think applies to your situation, you can appeal the decision in writing to SUSI. You must appeal within 30 days of getting your decision.

If you are living in direct provision or are in the international protection system, you can apply for support under the Student Support Scheme for Asylum Seekers. 

You can read more about the Student Grant Scheme on  citizensinformation.ie.

 During COVID-19, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo.

Know Your Rights has been compiled by Citizens Information West Cork  which provides a free and confidential service to the public. 

0761 078 390

Email Bantry.cic@citinfo.ie Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, 0761 07 4000

WCP Staff

WCP Staff Writer

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