Electronic income

Councilors want carer’s allowance on assessed income for rent



Councilors were united in heavy criticism of Westmeath County Council on Monday last week after it emerged Carer’s Allowance is included in the income to be assessed to calculate rent for tenants in local authorities.

The issue arose during a special hybrid meeting in Mullingar council chambers and online, to discuss the council’s social housing differential rent scheme amid earlier concerns over rent increases for tenants local authorities following the last rent review last year.

After a presentation, questions and a long discussion on various topics related to the housing crisis and the municipal scheme for calculating rents for its own housing stock, the elected officials called on the executive to examine whether the care allowance can be withdrawn or not during the income test to calculate the rent of a communal house in the future.

Rather than wait for the budget, the cathaoirleach, Cllr Frankie Keena, requested that the executive return within weeks to let members know if this can be done as action is needed.

An angry Cllr Ken Glynn (FF) first highlighted the carer problem while talking about some of the cases he has dealt with lately which are not reflected in the council’s statistics.

‘Numbers don’t tell us who is struggling and I can tell you there are a lot,’ he said, giving the example of a low-income couple, one the main breadwinner working family and the other a carer. , for one of their children.

“The employee essentially carpools because he does not work locally and sometimes at the end of the week he has to borrow because he cannot pay for the diesel if it is his turn to carpool. They pay €152 per week.

This carer’s allowance is given to allow someone to care for someone in their home, but using it in a means test is “beyond me”, he said.

He went on to give the example of another family, one with a disability, the other job seeker with two or three children who pay €97 per week, and not the €50 mentioned in the presentation. Another family he knows saw their rent rise from €55 a week to €164, an increase most people would struggle with.

Carer’s Allowance should not be considered as the local authority should try to bring their scheme in line with the Medical Card Scheme and the Department of Social Welfare (DSP) and Carer’s Allowance is not included in the evaluation of either of these plans, was the opinion of advisor Mick Dollard.

“It’s an onerous task, first of all to qualify, and there’s a reason why they get the care allowance. This may be caring for an elderly parent or a young child who needs special care and attention.

He thinks the care allowance should be removed from the assessment, which he says ‘won’t break the bank’.

Cllr Dollard also detailed a case recently where a family from Mullingar, one in receipt of a disability pension, the other a pensioner, husband and wife, were granted a raise of €5 each in the budget last November, but the rent review “resulted in their rent going up by €14, which actually means they are worse off by €4 a week”.

Cllr Paul Hogan supported the real-time stories presented at the meeting on the massive rent increases.

He said the council’s rent system is at ‘crisis point’ because people cannot afford to pay as increases are 40-50 per cent or double in some cases.

Cllr Hogan expressed ‘huge concern’ that things like Carer’s Allowance, TUS, Rural Welfare Scheme or Back to Education Allowance are all assessed as part of income to calculate rent, but on the other side, the home care subsidy for a carer is ignored, saying there is an “anomaly there”.

He backed his colleagues asking for carer’s allowance to be removed from the income test, as did Fine Gael’s Cllr Frank McDermott, who noted that carers are caring for someone, often the elderly, and if done privately, it would cost the state thousands.

Earlier, Housing Director Mark Keaveney explained how the council’s Differential Rent scheme works in a detailed presentation, describing it as ‘fair and proportionate’ given that it is calculated as a percentage of net household income after PRSI, PAYE, USC and pension deductions are removed.

There are also income gaps that are not included in household income, such as child allowance, fuel scheme, mobility allowance, he said.

The basic principle of the rent system is that rent is calculated at 22% of main income, he explained – however, when the various differentials and allowances are taken into account, it amounts to around 15% of net income .

Regarding the rent review carried out at the end of last year, and implemented this year, he said that out of a total of 2,620 who returned the review forms, 14% had reductions of rent, 26% had not changed, so about 40% .

A further 14% had a €1-5 raise and 15% a €5-10 raise, Mr Keaveney continued, adding that there was a €10-15 raise for 11% and a €15 raise. €20 for another 20. % of tenants.

As of last week, 50% of all tenants are paying €60 or less per week, while 85% of the total are paying €100 or less per week, Mr Keaveney said, promising he will look into the anomalies found.