When applying for a State Pension, it is also important to know what other benefits you are entitled to. There are several schemes that people may overlook. State pensions expert Noel Leahy takes us through what additional supports are available.

Fuel allowance

This is a means-tested payment. However, in Budget 2023, the means test has been relaxed to €200 per week more than the max of the State pension. For example, the assessable limit for a single person aged 66-70 is €465.30 after January 2023 [Top rate of pension is €265.30 (increase of €12 from January 2023) + €200 = €465.30)]. Savings are counted as means. A couple can have €730.60 per week (between pensions and savings) and still qualify. Budget 2023 brought a huge change in the means test for over 70s ie single person income limit is €500 per week, for couples it’s €1,000 per week. In 2021, fuel allowance was worth €1,000 for the year. In 2022, it is worth €1,400 for the year.

Savings and investments are counted as follows:

  • First €20,000 – Nil
  • Next €10,000- €10 per week
  • Next €10,000- €20 per week
  • Each €1,000 thereafter- €4 per week.
  • €40,000 is discounted for couples.
  • For example, if you have €30,000 in savings, that is counted as income of €10 per week.

    “If people think they might qualify for this payment, it is best to apply anyway because cost-of-living increases are mostly being paid on the fuel allowance,” says Noel.

    Household Benefits

    This package consists of a free TV licence and either an ESB or gas allowance to the value of €35.35 each month. A household with one person over 70 qualifies without the need for a means test. A couple aged between 66 and 70 qualify if they are both on the State pension. If not on a pension, it is still available if they satisfy a means test. Additionally, people under 66 who are on certain payments may also qualify.

    Living Alone Allowance

    This is a payment available to people on any social welfare who live alone or mainly alone. (Visitors staying over for a couple of nights a week will not affect eligibility). This payment is worth €22 a week, so it is well worth looking into. (People in receipt of the living alone allowance received a once-off payment of €200 this November.) This is not means-tested.

    State pensions expert Noel Leahy.

    Carer’s Allowance

    As people get older, sometimes they need additional care. This allowance is one such support. It is means-tested but the first €50,000 of capital is not taken into account nor is the €350 gross weekly income/€750 for those who are married or in a civil partnership. Its basic level is worth €224 for those under 66 and €262 for those over 66 (or €236 and €274 from January 2023). If you are caring for more than one person, you get an additional 50% of the rate on top. If you receive a social welfare payment such as the State pension and are caring for someone full-time, you are entitled to receive a half-rate of carers allowance along with your other payment.

    “If a pensioner qualifies, they get a half rate with their pension. Often now in a husband and wife situation, mostly the wife is younger. She could be the carer for her husband, he might be in his 80s and she might be in her 70s and she can get half of this payment on top of her pension,” advises Noel.

    Carer’s Benefit

    This is paid to people who leave work or reduce their work hours to care for a person in need of full-time care. It is not means tested and is worth €225 per week, although it is only payable for two years per person cared for. If you are caring for more than one person at a time, the maximum rate increases to €337.50. To get carer’s benefit, you must have at least 156 contributions paid at any time since you first started work (entered into the social insurance PRSI system). You must also have:

  • 39 contributions paid in the relevant tax year or
  • 39 contributions paid in the 12 months before the start of carer’s benefit or
  • 26 contributions paid in the relevant tax year and 26 contributions paid in the year before that.
  • Carer’s Support Grant

    Previously known as the respite care grant, this is a yearly one-off payment of €1,850 made payable in June for each person you are caring for. It is not means tested, but to qualify you have to be working less than 18.5 hours per week and you cannot be on jobseeker’s allowance or jobseeker’s benefit. You must also be caring for the person for at least six months - this must include the first Thursday in June. Budget 2023 is paying a once-off €500 this November to those in receipt of the Carer’s Support Grant.

    Medical Card for over 70

    If you are above the age of 70 you qualify if your gross income is under €550 for a single person or €1,050 for a couple who are cohabiting or in a civil partnership. The means test is quite liberal and the first €36,000 of savings are disregarded for a single person, and €72,000 for couples. For those who do not qualify, they can get the non-means tested GP visit card.

    Forms for the above-mentioned schemes can be found in your local Intro office or post office.

    Noel Leahy offers private services for a fee. To contact Noel, email noelpatleahy2@gmail.com or write to Noel Leahy, Donohill, Co Tipperary.