crosscare migrant project
LIVING IN IRELAND: An Integration Website for Migrants living in Ireland

Social Welfare

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Payments are divided into 3 categories:

1. Contributory: Social insurance payments (usually called benefits) are related to social insurance (PRSI) contributions made while in employment in a relevant tax year.

PRSI (Pay Related Social Insurance) is a payment made by employers and employees in Ireland into a national fund.

The Relevant Tax Year for a claim is the second last complete tax year before the start of the year you are making the claim, for example, if you are making a claim in 2017, the relevant Tax Year is 2015.

2. Non-Contributory: Social assistance payments are means-tested (based on your income) and paid to people who do not have enough contributions to qualify for a contributory benefit payment or who have used up their entitlement. They are usually called allowances.

A means test is carried out by the Department of Social Protection. The test looks at all your income to see if your total income is below a certain level.

3. Universal: These do not depend on insurance contributions or a means test, for example: Free Travel on public transport for residents over 66 years
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Habitual Residence Condition

What is the Habitual Residence Condition?

Habitual residence is a condition which you must satisfy in order to qualify for some social welfare assistance payments. This condition took effect from 1st May 2004 and affects all applicants regardless of nationality.

When deciding if you are habitually resident, the following five factors are considered:

1. Your main centre of interest, based on facts such as:

  • whether you own or lease a home in Ireland
  • where your close family members live
  • whether you belong to social or professional associations in Ireland
  • any other evidence or activities indicating a settled residence in Ireland

2. The length and continuity of residence in Ireland and in any other country

3. The length and purpose of any absence from Ireland

4. The nature and pattern of your employment

5. Your future intention to live in the Republic of Ireland as it appears from all the circumstances

What payments are subject to the Habitual Residence Condition?

You must be habitually resident in Ireland to qualify for the following payments:

  • Back to Work Family Dividene
  • Blind Pension
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Disability Allowance
  • Domiciliary Care Allowance
  • Guardian’s Payment (Non-Contributory)
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Jobseeker's Allowance Transitional Payment 
  • One-Parent Family Payment
  • State Pension (Non-Contributory)
  • Supplementary Welfare Allowance (other than once-off Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments).
  • Widow’s, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner (Non-Contributory) Pension

What if I do not satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition?

If you do not satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition you will not qualify for these payments. You may appeal a decision to refuse your application based on not being considered habitually resident.

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EC Regulations

What are EC Regulations?

EC Regulations apply to people who travel and work within the European Economic Area (EEA).

What countries are covered by EC Regulations?

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, the Republic of Cyprus (Cyprus South), Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK.

Who do EC Regulations apply to?

They cover workers and people getting social security benefits who are nationals of the above countries, stateless persons or refugees living permanently in any of these countries and their dependents. Non-EU nationals who have worked in another EU country will soon be covered.

What do EC Regulations ensure?

  • the same treatment in social security matters as nationals of the above countries where you work
  • social insurance contributions in any of these countries can be used to qualify for social security benefits in Ireland

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Making applications

Forms are available from your local social welfare office or from the Department of Social Protection at:

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Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA)

What is Supplementary Welfare Allowance?

Basic Supplementary Welfare may be given to you if you do not have enough money to take care of yourself. You must pass a means test. You are entitled to apply if:

  • You have applied for other social welfare payments but you are refused
  • You only qualify for a reduced rate social welfare payment and you do not have any other source of income
  • You are awaiting a decision on a social welfare payment (You will have to repay the money if you get the social welfare payment)
  • You are appealing a decision to grant you a social welfare payment
  • You have started work but are awaiting your wages (you will have to repay this money).

How do I qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA)?

You will normally qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance if you satisfy the following conditions:

  • You are living in the state
  • You satisfy the means test
  • You have applied for other benefits or allowances
  • You satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition
  • You have registered for work with FÁS (state training and employment agency) if you are of working age

You will not normally qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance if you are:

  • in full-time work (working for more than 29 hours per week)
  • in full-time education
  • involved in a trade dispute (You may claim Supplementary Welfare Allowance for your dependants).

What is Rent Supplement?

Rent Supplement is financial assistance with paying for your private rental accommodation. It is a form of SWA.

How do I qualify for Rent Supplement?

  • You must apply to be assessed by a housing authority as having a housing need. 


  • Pass a habitual residence test
  • Pass a means test

NOTE: You can qualify for rent supplement if you were living in private rented accommodation for at least 6 months (183 days) of the last 12 months, and you could afford the rent at the beginning of your tenancy but you are unable to continue to pay the rent because of a substantial change in your circumstances which occurred after you started renting. 

If you were living in accommodation for homeless people for at least 6 months (183 days) of the last 12 months you will also qualify for rent supplement. If you have already been assessed as qualified for social housing support you will be referred to your local authority to have your housing needs addressed (rather than being assessed for rent supplement). 

What is HAP?

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. HAP will eventually replace long-term Rent Supplement. 

Under the HAP scheme, local authorities are responsible for accessing all social housing needs. It also enables people to take up full-time employment and keep their housing support. 

Local authorities pay landlords directly. The rent charged for the accommodation must be within the limits set out by the local authority. Tenants also pay a weekly rent contribution to the local authority, based on their income and ability to pay. For further information go to:

How do I qualify for an Exceptional Needs Payment?

You may be paid an Exceptional Needs Payment to assist with essential once-off unexpected expenses, for example, funeral expenses. Payment is at the discretion of the Community Welfare Officer (CWO).

How do I qualify for an Urgent Needs Payment?

You may be granted an Urgent Needs Payment even if you are not normally eligible to receive assistance under the Supplementary Welfare Scheme. Payments are normally made to assist with immediate needs such as food, clothing in the aftermath of a fire or flood. Depending on your circumstances you may have to pay back all or part of what you have been paid, for example, if you are working or once an insurance claim has been settled.

How long can I claim Supplementary Welfare Allowance?

Supplementary Welfare Allowance is payable for as long as you satisfy the qualifying conditions.

How do I apply?

You can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance to the Community Welfare Officer (CWO) at your local Health Centre or social welfare office.

What do I need to provide?

You should bring the following:

  • Your PPS number
  • ID (Birth Certificate or passport)
  • Evidence of any income
  • A note from your local social welfare office and your last pay slip if you have just applied for Jobseeker’s Benefit/Allowance
  • Your Child Benefit Book or Birth Certificates for any children you may be claiming for (if you do not have PPS numbers for them)
  • Your rent book if you require assistance paying your rent
  • A statement giving details of your mortgage interest payments if you are applying for help with your mortgage interest

If you require further information you can contact the Community Welfare Officer (CWO) in your local Health Centre.

What if I do not get Supplementary Welfare Allowance?

You have the right to appeal the decision. If you wish to make an appeal you should write to the Appeals Officer in your local Health Centre.

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Payments for People who are Sick or People with a Disability

There are a number of both social insurance and social assistance payments for people who are sick or who have a disability. Illness Benefit and Invalidity Pension are based on work history contributions. Illness Benefit is intended for those with a short-term illness but it can be paid in the long-term. Invalidity Pension is a long-term payment. Disability Allowance and Blind Pension are long-term means tested payments. There is also the Occupational Injuries Benefit Scheme that applies to work related injuries and diseases and Disablement Benefit for loss of physical or mental faculty because of an occupational injury or a prescribed occupational disease.

For more information on health services for people with disabilities contact the HSE

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Living Alone Increase

The Living Alone Increase is an extra payment for people on social welfare pensions who are living alone.

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National Fuel Scheme

The National Fuel Scheme is intended to help households that depend on long-term social welfare or Health Service Executive payments and are unable to pay for their own heating needs. The Scheme generally operates from the beginning of September to the end of March.

How do I apply?

If you are receiving a social welfare payment you must complete Form NFS1 and apply either at your local social welfare office or send the form to the Social Welfare Services Offices in Longford or Sligo. If you are receiving a payment from the Health Service Executive (HSE), you should apply to your Community Welfare Officer (CWO) at your local Health Centre.

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Treatment Benefit Scheme

The Treatment Benefit Scheme is available to insured workers and retired people who have the required number of PRSI contributions. Under the scheme, you get a contribution towards the costs involved:

Dental Benefit

  • Dental examination

Optical Benefit

  • Eye examination

Hearing Aids

  • The Department of Social Protection pay half the cost of a hearing aid or repairs to a hearing aid (up to a maximum of €500 every 4 years).

How many PRSI contributions do I need to qualify for the scheme?

The amount of social insurance you need depends on your age. Search for ‘Treatment Benefit’ on for more information.

How do I apply for Treatment Benefit?

Dental: Forms are available from your dentist.

Optical: Forms are available from your optician, local Social Welfare Services office or the Treatment Benefit Section.

Aural: Forms are available from private suppliers of equipment (hearing aids) or the Treatment Benefit Section.

If you do not qualify for Treatment Benefit on your Irish social insurance record, but you worked and made social insurance contributions in another country covered by EC Regulations, you may use your social insurance record in that country to help you qualify, as long as you have paid at least one PRSI contribution at Class A, E, H and P (most employees pay Class A PRSI).

Where can I get more information?

Treatment Benefit Section
Department of Social Protection
St. Oliver Plunkett Road, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Lo-Call: 1890 400 400 (ext. 4480)
Telephone: 01 7043000

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Supported by

This project is co-financed by the European Commission under the European Integration Fund and is supported by the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration in the Dept of Justice & Equality & Pobal.