Social Welfare Entitlements 2010

Social Welfare Entitlements 2010

Courtesy of The Citizens Information Board

The main Budget changes which may affect people living in Ireland are set out below.

This document sets out changes in the areas of social welfare, tax, health, transport, environment, housing, education, employment and other areas.

For a full list of the Budget changes, please read the Department of Finance’s Summary of Budget Measures.

 Medical Cards

Entitlement to health services for those with cancer is the same as for all other patients.

    • Medical cards are issued by the Health Services Executive (HSE).  Entitlement to a medical card is generally means-tested.  From January 2009 people over 70 years of age are also means-tested, but the means-test is quite generous for this group. Application forms and guidelines on means-testing for all medical cards is available from your nearest Citizens Information Centre or you can download from  Frontier workers e.g., people who live in Ireland and who work in any other EU country, including Northern Ireland,. are entitled to a medical card without a means-test, provided they have NO income from Ireland (excluding Child Benefit).
  • If you have a medical card, you are entitled to free GP services; prescribed drugs and medicines; in-patient public hospital services; out-patient services and medical appliances.  You can choose a GP from a panel.  The GP must generally have his/her practice within seven miles of where you live.  Your GP must accept you as a patient.  Persons with no income other than a social welfare payment will normally qualify for a medical card.  Lone parents with dependants are assessed under the income guidelines for married persons.  However, a card may be issued on compassionate grounds to an individual or family who does not satisfy the means-test.  Where family members have long-term medical needs, it is always worth highlighting this on a Medical Evidence Form which should accompany your application for a medical card.  These are available from your GP or nearest CIC.

The GP Visit Card is in place since 2005 as an initiative to assist those who did not qualify for a medical card on income grounds. The means-test is more generous than for the medical card.  However, it covers the cost of GP visits (all) only.

    • Hospital Services
    • Entitlement to in-patient hospital services for cancer patients is the same for all other citizens.  Holders of medical cards do NOT have to pay hospital charges for public beds in HSE hospitals.  People with GP Visit Cards or no medical card will incur daily in-patient and out-patient charges.  Medical card holders may also incur long-term hospital charges.
    • Hospital services include:
  • Out-patients/emergency medical services in public hospital:  There is no charge for medical card holders with full eligibility, or for anyone referred by their GP. Without a GP referral there may be a €100 charge. This is a once-off charge. If you have to return for further visits to an out-patient clinic in relation to the same illness, you should not have to pay the charge again. If you attend in a private capacity you must pay the fee.

In-patient charges in public hospitals: The charge for in-patient/day services is €75 per day up to a maximum of €750 in any 12 consecutive months (from January 1, 2009).  The charge does not apply to medical card holders, people who are entitled to hospital services because of EU regulations or people who are subject to ‘long stay’ charges.

Private/semi-private patients in public or voluntary hospitals: if you are in a private/semi-private bed in a public or voluntary hospital you must pay the set charges.  The charges are in addition to the public hospital in-patient charges. As a private patient you must also pay for any consultants/specialist staff involved in caring for you.

Private treatment in a private hospital:  If you opt for private care in a private hospital, you must pay the full cost of treatment and maintenance.  Access is through referral from your family doctor.  Your private health insurance may cover all or some of he costs involved.

Long-stay patients: The HSE may impose hospital charges on long-stay or extended care patients, separately from the normal in-patient charges.  If you have been an in-patient for more than 30 days within the previous 12 months, you will be liable for these charges.  This applies to everyone, including medical card holders.

The Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations provide for different charging arrangements, depending on the level of nursing care being provided.

The maximum charge for anyone in long-term care is €153.25 per week.

Home help service is means-tested, so you may have to make a contribution towards the cost, even if you hold a medical card. You should apply to your local public health nurse or GP. Your need will be assessed and the HSE will process the application. Each application is considered on its own merit and a number of factors will be taken into account including income, other family supports available and remoteness from services.

Public Health Nurses: The HSE is obliged to provide a free nursing service to medical card holders.  The service is not necessarily confined to medical card holders.  Services may vary from area to area.  The public health nurse frequently acts as a point of access for other services.

Physiotherapy/Occupational Therapy: These services are generally free to medical card holders.  There is usually a waiting list.

Technical Aids: The HSE is obliged to provide medical / surgical aids and appliances, such as wheelchairs and walking aids, free of charge to medical card holders.  If you do not have a medical card, you may get such aids and appliances free if they are part of hospital treatment.  If you have private health insurance, you may be covered for some or part of the costs.

Respite Care: Respite care or temporary care is provided at various centres.  There is a charge for respite care (even for medical card holders).  For details of charges, you should contact the care centre involved.

Day Centres: Day centres provide a range of different services and access is usually by referral. Eligibility conditions may vary, with means-test in some cases.

Home Care Grant

The Home Care Grant is available from the HSE  to people who are 65 years of age or over, are currently in receipt of community support services (e.g. home help etc.)  and wish to remain living at home but cannot do so without financial assistance to pay for additional help.  The grant is available to persons deemed to be of high or maximum dependency levels and a Needs Assessment is carried out by the public health nurse.  The maximum payment per week under the Home Care Grant is €190.46 per week and the grant is paid directly to the applicant, who is responsible for practical matters e.g. recruitment of help, PRSI/tax etc. i.e. the recipient of the grant effectively becomes an employer. To make an application contact Marie O’Neill at 074 –9322684 or mobile 087 9839514.

Home Care Package

The Home Care Package consists of a short-term (max 6 weeks) range of services put in place to assist an older person  to return to/remain at home.  The package differs from normal delivery of care in the community as it allows for the provision of enhanced services beyond the normal levels available in the community on a short-term basis to assist e.g. with the transition period between hospital and home or to prevent/delay admissions to Acute Hospital, Community Hospital or Continuing Care. For more information on the Package contact Marie O’Neill at telephone number above. If an elderly person is moving from hospital to home, referral will be made by the hospital; contact: Grace Ann O’Donnell, Discharge Liaison Officer, Tel. 074 9125888, who will assist with the application process.


Subsidised air travel for cancer patients from Derry City /Carrickfin Airports to Dublin Airport.

Available to medical card holders and in certain circumstances to non-medical card holders.  A spouse, relative, or companion may also travel at subsidised rate, which is currently €25.40 (return flight).  This programme is sponsored by the HSE.  Funding for overnight stays/subsistence is not covered through this service.

Application forms are available from Mary Nolan – Inishowen Area on 086 6068757 from 4 – 10 p.m. Monday-Friday or Mary Mc Ginley – Donegal West on 074 9542373 (using Carrickfinn airport).  Ring from 4.00 – 10.00 pm Monday – Friday.

Bus Service

Bus Service to Dublin for cancer patients: A bus service is available from locations at Letterkenny General Hospital, Lifford and McClay’s Corner, Stranorlar to all hospitals in Dublin.  This service is available at subsidised cost to both medical card and non-medical card holders (€12.50 return). To book this bus contact 071 9858908 – Monday to Friday between 9.00 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.

Patient’s Comfort Fund Bus to St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin

This bus is available free of charge (sponsored by Patient’s Comfort Fund).  It will take cancer patients from Letterkenny General Hospital to St. Luke’s in Dublin.  The bus leaves Letterkenny on Monday at 9 a.m. and leaves St. Luke’s on Friday, between 11.00 a.m. and 12.00 a.m. when treatment is finished.

To book contact Angela at 074 9188821.

Reimbursement of transport costs to hospital/outpatients appointments (within the HSE-NW area) for those deemed entitled to it.

Exceptional Needs Payment (ENP)

Financial assistance may be available under an Exceptional Needs Payment (ENP).

Contact your local Community Welfare Officer (CWO) for the financial assessment form as there is a means-test involved. Application should be made prior to appointment.  A letter will be required from your GP stating that the client requires financial support.  If you use a taxi service, your receipt should be retained.  The taxi must be registered.    ‘Waiting time’ is not reimbursed.  You should retain your notification letter from clinic and get it stamped by the secretary, confirming attendance.  Where a family member/friend takes you to your appointment by car, petrol costs may be reimbursed. A list of all CWO’s will be available from the HSE, health clinic or CIC.

Disabled Person’s Parking Cards

These cards are available to people living in Ireland with certain disabilities, whether they are drivers or passengers.  The card may be used by a disabled person, in any vehicle, in which he/she is travelling.  The card is valid for two years from date of issue and cost €25.  You will automatically qualify for a card if you hold a Primary Medical Certificate.  However, you must still apply.

To apply for a parking card write to either of these organisations enclosing a stamped self-addressed envelope. Your should give details of your disability and how it affects your mobility.  If you have a Primary Medical Certificate you should mention it.

The Disabled Drivers’ Association


Co Mayo

Tel. 094 9364050


Irish Wheelchair Association

Ballinagappa Road


Co Kildare

Tel. 045 893094

Primary Medical Certificate

To obtain a Primary Medical Certificate you should obtain an application form from the HSE or nearest CIC office.  You must complete and return to HSE who will organise for the Area Medical Officer (AMO) to visit your home and carry out the assessment.  If you satisfy the requirements, you are granted a Primary Medical Certificate by HSE.

Social Welfare Entitlements

Illness Benefit

Illness Benefit is a payment for insured people who cannot work due to illness.

You may qualify if you:

      • are under 66
      • are unable to work due to illness
      • satisfy the PRSI conditions
  • Your payment is made up of a personal rate for yourself with extra amounts for a qualified adult/dependant children.  Current rates are available from you nearest CIC.  You may get half personal rate in addition to One-Parent Family Payment, Widow’s Contributory/Non-Contributory Pension/Deserted Wife’s Benefit/Allowance.

Since January 2009, if you have 260 (i.e. 5 years) or more PRSI contributions you can get Illness Benefit for a maximum of 2 years.  If you have between 104 – 259 weeks PRSI contributions paid, you may be entitled to Illness Benefit for up to 52 weeks.  At the end of this period, an extra 13 PRSI contributions must be paid to re-qualify.

Note that Illness Benefit is a taxable source of income.

To apply contact your GP and complete first medical certificate MC1.You must send in a medical certificate each week for as long as you are ill, unless told otherwise.

You may be asked to sit a medical board at any time.  If you fail this board your payment will cease.  You can appeal the decision.

Invalidity Pension

Invalidity Pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions.  To qualify you must satisfy both medical and social insurance conditions.  You can use contributions paid in other EU countries or in countries with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement to help you qualify.

You will be transferred on to the State Pension at age 66.

Disability Allowance

Disability Allowance is a weekly allowance for people aged between 16 and 66 with a disability.  Your disability must be expected to last at least one year.  You must pass a medical examination and a means-test.  The capital disregard is €50,000. Amounts above this will affect the payment.

Extra benefits which may be claimed by  people on sick payments:

      • Free travel or
      • Free Companion Pass, which allows you to have a companion aged 16 or over join you when travelling
      • Assistance under SWA scheme (Health Board)
      • Free Fuel – subject to an additional means-test and certain conditions
      • A medical card from the HSE (means-tested)
      • Household Benefits Package – Electricity Allowance, Telephone Allowance and TV license (subject to certain conditions)
  • NB Illness Benefit is regarded as a short-term social welfare payment and as such does not qualify for Free Travel, Free Fuel or the Household Benefits Package.

Living Alone Allowance (LAA)

This is a supplementary payment for people on various social welfare payments who are living alone.  Payments on which LAA may be payable include Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Incapacity Supplement and Blind Pension.  If you are over 66 you may qualify on a wider range of payments.

Carer’s Allowance

Carer’s Allowance is a means-tested payment for Carers who provide full-time care and attention.  You will qualify if you the carer:

      • Are aged 18 or over
      • Satisfy a means-test
      • Are a full-time carer (you may be employed/self-employed for maximum of 15 hours outside the home)
  • If you are caring for two or more people you may get Carer’s Allowance paid at one and half times the normal rate.  A Respite Care grant is paid annually (first week in June) for each care recipient.

Note: There is no Qualified Adult Allowance payable with Carer’s Allowance.

 Half-rate Carer’s Allowance

Since September 2007, the Carer’s Allowance scheme has allowed more people who are caring for another person get a Carer’s Allowance payment.  If you are getting certain social welfare payments or are a qualified adult on your spouse/partner’s social welfare claim and you are providing full-time care, your spouse/partner can keep the main social welfare payment and you can get half-rate Carer’s Allowance as well.

Rules for half-rate Carer’s can be complex so it is a good idea to discuss the matter with your nearest CIC at application stage.

Respite Care Grant is payable with half-rate Carer’s Allowance (first week in June) for each care recipient.

There is no need to apply for Respite Care Grant if you are getting a Carer’s Allowance.  If you are not getting a Carer’s Allowance but are providing full-time care and attention you should apply for it on form RCG1.


Carer’s Allowance is disregarded income when calculating FIS, Medical Card and Third Level Education Grants (Council and VEC).

You may qualify for credited PRSI contributions for the period of caring.  These can help you qualify for State Pension (Contributory).  You should enquire about credits at your local social welfare office.

Carer’s Benefit

This is a payment for people who have made social insurance contributions and who have recently left the workforce, or decided to take time off, and are looking after someone who needs full-time care and attention.  You will qualify if you, the carer:

      • Are aged 16 or over
      • Have been employed for 8 weeks in the 26 week period immediately before applying
      • You must have worked for a minimum of 16 hours per week or 32 hours per fortnight
      • Satisfy PRSI conditions
      • Give up employment to care full-time for somebody
      • Are not employed or self-employed outside the home for more than 15 hours per week
  • Notes: There is no Qualified Adult Allowance payable with Carer’s Benefit.  Carer’s Benefit is a taxable source of income
  • You can get Carer’s Benefit for two years (104 weeks) for each person you are caring for.  You may claim it in a single continuous payment or in separate periods adding to a total of 104 weeks. 

Carer’s Leave 

By law (Carer’s Leave Act 2001) you may qualify for temporary unpaid leave from your employment to provide full-time care and attention to another person.

Since March 24, 2006 the minimum period of leave is 13 weeks and the maximum period is 104 weeks.

You must have worked for your employer for a period of 12 months to be able to apply for Carer’s Leave.

The Act protects you against being victimised by your employer for taking carer’s leave, or proposing to take it.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

This is a monthly means-tested payment made to the carer of a child with a severe disability/illness.  It is paid by  DSFA.  A medical assessment is carried out by the HSE Area Medical Officer who will determine on medical grounds whether the child qualifies for the allowance.  The means-test applies to the child and not to the parents. The carer of the child will qualify for Carer’s Allowance if they meet the other conditions for Carer’s Allowance.  The Carer is also eligible for Respite Care Grant, which is paid automatically in the first week of June each year.

Contact DSFA or your nearest CIC for an application form.

Exceptional Needs Payment (ENP)

ENP’s are made under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme of the HSE. It is a single payment to help meet essential, once off exceptional expenditure, which may be paid to a person who could not be reasonably expected to meet this expense out of their weekly income. ENP’s are means-tested.

Tax relief available

Medical Insurance

Tax relief for medical insurance premiums paid to authorised insurers is granted at source (TRS). Subscribers will pay a reduced premium (80% of the gross amount) to the insurer. This reduction is the same as giving tax relief at the standard rate of tax (20%).

Employees whose medical insurance premiums are paid on their behalf, by their employer, as a Benefit-in-Kind, will not have been allowed tax relief at source. To claim the relief due it will be necessary to notify your local Revenue Office by phone, email or in person with the relevant details, or by completing your annual tax return

Health/Medical Expenses Relief

You may claim tax relief on a Form MED 1, at the standard rate of tax (20%), from 1 January 2009 (with the exception of nursing home expenses for which tax relief is still available at your highest rate of tax) for certain medical expenses incurred by you, on your own behalf or on behalf of another person. Most medical expenses, with some exceptions e.g. routine dental and ophthalmic care, qualify for relief.

You cannot claim relief for any expenditure which has been, or will be, reimbursed, e.g. by Hibernian Aviva Health, Quinn-Healthcare, VHI, a Health Authority, or where a compensation payment is made or will be made.

Health expenses cover a wide variety of matters and include -

  • Doctors' and consultants' fees
  • Diagnostic procedures carried out on the advice of a practitioner
  • Drugs/medicines prescribed by a doctor/dentist/consultant
  • Maintenance or treatment in a hospital or approved nursing home (the hospital/nursing home must be approved by the Minister for Health and Children or approved for the purposes of health expenses relief by the Minister for Finance after consultation with the Minister for Health and Children). See list of approved hospitals and nursing homes
  • The supply, maintenance or repair of any medical, surgical, dental or nursing appliance used on the advice of a practitioner
  • Physiotherapy or similar treatment prescribed by a practitioner
  • Orthoptic or similar treatment prescribed by a practitioner
  • Transport by ambulance
  • Certain items of expenditure in respect of a child suffering from a serious life threatening illness
  • Kidney patients’ expenses (up to a maximum amount depending on whether the patient uses hospital dialysis, home dialysis or CAPD). See Kidney Patients section below.
  • Specialised dental treatment

Incapacitated Child Tax Credit

The tax system provides additional tax credits and exemption of certain incomes in respect of persons with disabilities of a permanent nature. Leaflet. See IT 18 for further information.

Employing a Carer - Tax Credit

Where a person is permanently incapacitated due to physical or mental infirmity, a tax allowance of up to €50,000 is available towards the cost of employing a person to care for the incapacitated person. You can claim this at your marginal tax rate. This credit may be claimed either by the incapacitated person or by a relative including relatives by marriage.

A Guide to claiming Health/Medical Expenses Relief - IT6

This Revenue guide details the tax relief you can claim in respect of the cost of certain medical expenses paid by you.
Appliances:  Where there is any doubt that the appliance in question is a medical, surgical, dental or nursing appliance, a certificate from a medical practitioner may be requested. The certificate should: state the nature of the patient's illness, confirm that the appliance is being used on the advice of the medical practitioner outline how the appliance will help to prevent, diagnose, alleviate or treat the ailment, injury, infirmity, defect or disability from which the patient is suffering. The claim will be considered in the light of the information submitted and relief given where Revenue is satisfied that the appliance may be regarded as a medical, surgical, dental or nursing appliance. Examples of appliances for which relief is allowable include:  A Glucometer machine i.e. the cost of the provision of the machine on the advice of a medical practitioner for a diabetic. False Eye: the cost of a false eye is regarded as an expense incurred on the purchase of a medical appliance....

Exemptions and refunds of DIRT

Since 2007, your financial institution can pay your interest on deposits without deducting DIRT. You must apply to have your deposit interest paid without the deduction of DIRT (see 'Where to apply' below).

People over 65

You can have your deposit interest paid without the deduction of DIRT or a DIRT refund, if you are over 65 and:

  • Your income (including your spous’s) is below the low exemption limit or
  • Your tax liability (including your spouse's) for the year is below your tax credits (including your spouse's) for that year.
  • In general, joint accounts where one of the account holders is aged 65 or over will only qualify for the refund of DIRT if the other account holder is that person’s spouse.

However, if another person, such as your son or daughter, has the authority to operate your bank account on your behalf, and is named as an account holder for this purpose only, you will continue to qualify for the refund of DIRT provided you are the beneficial owner of the account. In this case, when claiming a refund of DIRT, you must include a declaration that you (not your child) are entitled to all of the interest paid in respect of the deposit. 

People with disability

You can have your deposit interest paid without the deduction of DIRT or a DIRT refund, if you are:

  • Permanently incapacitated from maintaining yourself and
  • Your tax credits (including your spouse's) for the year exceed the tax that would be chargeable on your (and your spouse's) income for the year.
  • How to apply

To apply for a refund of DIRT, fill in form 54D (pdf). Send the completed form to your local Revenue office. You will need to obtain a Certificate of Interest from your bank, building society, credit union, etc, and include this with your application.

You can apply to have your deposit interest paid without the deduction of DIRT if:

  • You are over 65 years of age you must complete form DE1 (pdf) and return it to your financial institution
  • You are a permanently incapacitated person or a trustee of a special trust for a permanently incapacitated person, you must complete form DE2 (pdf) and return it to Revenue.
  • A claim for a refund of Value Added Tax (VAT) chargeable on aids and appliances for use by Disabled Persons may be made on Revenue Form 61A.  Qualifying expenses include:-
      • Walk-in baths
      • Commodes
      • Specified Chairs
      • Hoists and Lifts including stair lifts
  • Tax Concessions for Disabled Drivers and Passengers:

To enter the scheme, the person with the disability must be in receipt of a Primary Medical Certificate.  Your application will be assessed by the Area Medical Officer (AMO) of the HSE.  Application forms are available from Revenue Commissioners or your nearest CIC.  The vehicle must be adapted to take account of the person’s disability.  Relief may apply to a new or second-hand vehicle.

There are three categories of applicants for admission to the scheme:-

      • Drivers with disabilities
      • Passeners with disabilities
      • Family members of a person with a disability
  • The scheme covers:
      • Repayment of VAT
      • Remission of VRT
      • Exemption from road tax
      • Refund of excise duty on fuel
  • Housing Grants – Donegal County Council

Grants for elderly/disabled previously administered by the local authority are currently under review.  For a current update contact your local authority housing grants section.

Some useful contacts for the Department of Social and Family Affairs

Illness Benefit Section: 01 6797777

Invalidity Pension Section: 043 3340000

Disability Allowance Section:  043 3340000

Carer’s Benefit Section: 043 3340000

Respite Care Grant Section: 01 6732222

Applications for all of the above social welfare payments can be obtained from your local SW office, CIC office or department’s website at


Contact details for general tax entitlements:

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

High Road, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Tel. (074) 9121299

Tax Concessions for disabled drivers and passengers

The Central Repayments Office

Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Coolshannagh, Co. Monaghan, Tel (0470 38010 .


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