Irish Social Security
In general, the social welfare system in Ireland is divided into three main types of payments, which are Social insurance payments, Means-tested payments and Universal payments.
With all social welfare payments, it is required to satisfy specific personal circumstances that are set out in the rules for each scheme. For example, to claim the One-Parent Family Payment, you must be parenting alone and therefore not cohabiting and as well as satisfying the necessary circumstantial criteria, other rules also apply.
There is also a range of employment schemes and other supports which encourage long-term unemployed people to return to work.
Social security – Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI)
Social insurance payments are given to people who satisfy specific social insurance contribution conditions (PRSI conditions), in addition to the necessary circumstantial conditions, which may vary, depending on the payment you apply for. A summary of the PRSI contribution conditions for each payment is set out in individual leaflets on different payments and are available on the Department of Social Protection’s website. Payments based on your social insurance contributions include for example – Jobseeker’s Benefit, Illness Benefit, Maternity Benefit, Invalidity Pension, Carer’s Benefit and State Pension (Contributory).
Go towards Social Insurance Fund (SIF) – pays for Social Welfare benefits and pensions. Different rates for different classes of individuals – which has a direct effect on how much employer NI is.
Classes A is the usual class for Private / Public sector employments. PRSI payments range from 0 – 4% for employees and PRSI payments range from 8.50% – 10.75% for employers in class A. Employees paid under €352 per week do not pay PRSI, however once earnings exceed this then both employee and employer are charged.
Since May 2004, you have to be habitually resident to qualify for social assistance payments in Ireland. Find out more about the residency requirements for social assistance payments in Ireland.
Means-tested payments are designed for people who do not have enough PRSI contributions to qualify for the equivalent social insurance-based payments as for example a person who becomes unemployed, applies for Jobseeker’s Benefit but fails to qualify because he or she does not have enough social insurance contributions. He/she can apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance instead, which is the means-tested equivalent payment.
A means test is where the Department of Social Protection examines all the sources of income to see whether they fall below a certain level. In fact, how your means are tested varies from payment to payment. In some instances, it is allowed a certain amount of income or savings before your entitlement to a payment is affected.
Universal payments are paid regardless of a person’s income or social insurance record and are dependent on the claimant satisfying specific personal circumstances. An example is Child Benefit (often known as the Children’s Allowance), where a person must simply have a child dependant living with them as defined in the social welfare legislation.