About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Job Seekers Benefit

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Teresa McCourt- Social Welfare Expert

Teresa Mc Court has been the Development Manager with Co Westmeath Citizens Information Service since 1997. The service runs 2 full time Citizens Information Centres, one in Mullingar and one in Athlone and Outreach centres in Castlepollard and Kilbeggan.

The service dealt with over 32,000 queries from members of the public in 2008 alone. The figures so far for 2009 are showing a marked rise on last year with close to 3000 queries in each of the first 2 months.

The main issues people have are Employment, Social Welfare Heath and Housing, but the service also deals with queries on Education, Tax, Immigration and many other topics. Every effort is made to provide a high quality comprehensive and confidential service to the public. The service is free.

Teresa began her career as a civil servant working in the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Social Welfare. She studied Public Administration, Community Development , Psychology and also completed a Diploma with Open University in the Management Voluntary and Non Profit Organisations.

She remains actively involved in Community affairs in a voluntary capacity. She is a Board member of Athlone Community Services Council, Dr. Stephens Centre for the unemployed, The Midlands Support Agency and Citizens Information Phone Service.

In her role as a Development Manager she has initiated programmes such as a weekly "know your rights" slot on local radio which has been extremely successful.

The service runs public Information workshops on topics such as Pensions, Wills and Inheritance. And also gives presentations to Community groups on request.

In light of the economic crisis queries at the Westmeath CIC have become increasingly complex as more and more people are faced with unemployment.

What is Job seekers benefit?

Jobseeker's Benefit is a weekly payment from the Department of Social and Family Affairs (DSFA) to people who are out of work and covered by PRSI.

Jobseeker's Benefit is paid for a maximum of 12 months for those with 260 PRSI contributions. And for a maximum of 9 months to people who have less than 260 PRSI contributions.

What does the 260 contributions mean?

This means that a person has to have worked for at least 5 years at some stage in their life to get these contributions.

How can you check that you have the 260 contributions?

You can check when you go into you office at the social welfare or else you can check you records online on the welfare websites..

What is difference between job seekers benefit and job seekers allowance?

The Job seekers allowance is means tested and job seekers allowance would be used in the event that the benefits might run out or if that person does not have enough contributions to get job seekers benefit, they can then apply for Job seekers allowance.


To qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit you must:

. Be unemployed for at least 3 days in 6.
. Be under 66 years of age
. Have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions
. Be capable of work
. Be available for and genuinely seeking work
. Have a substantial loss of employment and as a result be unemployed for at least 3 days in 6.


Jobseeker's Benefit is not paid for the first 3 days you are unemployed.

Weekly Jobseeker's Benefit payment in 2010:

Average Weekly Earnings Personal Rate Qualified Adult Rate

Less than €150 €88.10 €84.30

€150 - €219.99 €126.60 €84.30

€220 - €299.99 €153.60 €84.30

€300 or more €196 €130.10

Child dependent rate €29.80

Taxation of Jobseeker's Benefit

Jobseeker's Benefit is taxable. However, if you are getting Jobseeker's Benefit because your normal working week has been reduced (systematic short-time work) your Jobseeker's Benefit is not taxed.

Are there a number of exrta benefits that a person would be entitled to on Job seekers benefit?

Yes, they are Rent supplement, smokeless Fuel allowance, and back to school clothing and footwear Allowance, School book Scheme and Medical Card

What do long term unemployed get - do they get paid after a year?

After a year they're means tested, they may apply for job seekers allowance, but in some cases they might not get it.. for example, if that person has a wife and she is working, or if they have money in the bank then they may not get it at all.

We are going to look at a number of schemes for returning to work...

1. Back to Work Enterprise Allowance.

2. The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme encourages people getting certain social welfare payments to become self-employed. People taking part in the Back to Work enterprise Allowance scheme can keep a percentage of their social welfare payment for up to 2 years.

From 1 May 2009, the qualifying period required for BTWEA is reduced from 2 years to 12 months provided you have an underlying entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance.


Back to Work Enterprise Allowance:

You can avail of the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance if you are:

. Setting up as self-employed in a business that has been approved in advance in writing by a Job Facilitator or Partnership Company

. Getting a Jobseeker's Allowance for 12 months

You may also be considered for the BTWEA if you are:

. A Qualified adult of a person eligible to claim the BTWEA. This involves the person who is eligible for the BTWEA transferring his or her entitlements to their spouse or partner. (In other words, the spouse or partner becomes self-employed and the original claimant becomes the qualified adult on the BTWEA). If the original claimant is entitled to credits, he or she can continue to claim them.

What rate of Job seekers benefit can you keep for Back to Work Enterprise Allowance?


With this they can keep their full rate of social for 12 months.

(100% of your weekly social welfare payment for the 1st year)

. 75% for the 2nd year
. 50% for the 3rd year
. 25% for the 4th year

New participants will keep the following portions of their social welfare payment, including increases for a qualified adult and qualified children, for a maximum of 2 years:

. 100% for the 1st year
. 75% for the 2nd year

There is also a new short-term enterprise allowance?

2.A new Back to Work Allowance Scheme called the Short-term Enterprise Allowance started from 1 May 2009.

Short-term Enterprise Allowance:

The Short-term Enterprise Allowance is a new Back to Work Scheme introduced. There is no qualifying period. You can get immediate access to the allowance but you must meet the qualifying conditions.

What are the Qualifying Conditions?

. An entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit
. Either 104 contributions paid in the past 2 years or qualify for statutory redundancy

What about the Short-term Enterprise Allowance Payment?

If you qualify for the Short-term Enterprise Allowance, you will keep 100% of your weekly social welfare payment, including increases for a qualified adult and qualified children. It will be paid to you for a maximum of 1 year. It will end when your entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit ends (that is, at either 9 months or 12 months).

3. What about going back to Education?

If you are unemployed, you may be able to pursue approved second-or third-level education courses through the Back to Education Allowance scheme. Participants in the scheme get a standard rate of payment that is not means-tested.

The allowance is payable for the duration of the course, with the exception of the Summer months.

Can you keep your secondary Benefits?

You can keep your secondary benefits such as rent supplement when on avail of back to education allowance.

Will I get a students maintenance grant if you ar getting Back to Education Allowance?

If you are getting a Back to Education Allowance, you will not get a student maintenance grant, But you will be entitled to an exemption from college fees or student support charges.


To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you must be at least 21 years of age (24 years of age for a third-level postgraduate course). For exceptions to the age limit - see below.

For a 2nd level course you must be getting jobseekers benefit for 3 months and out of the formal education system for at least 2 years).

If you wish to attend a third level course you must be getting a social welfare payments (i.e. one-Parent Family, Job seekers Allowance or Job Seekers Benefit or alternative social welfare payment) for 12 months immediately before you start the course (9 months if you are assessed and approved by FÁS under the National Employment Action Plan or a Facilitator from DSFA).

Exceptions to the Age Limit:

To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you must be at least 21 years of age (24 years of age for a third-level postgraduate course).

However, if you are getting Jobseeker's Allowance, Jobseeker's Benefit or One-Parent Family Payment for the required period of time and aged between 18 and 20 and you have been out of the formal education system for at least 2 years you may qualify for Back to Education Allowance.

What are the rates for Back to education Allowance?

This is for people who want to return to college - they can keep the full rate of their benefits for the duration of their college stay.

Back to Education Allowance is paid at a standard rate, so if you are currently getting a reduced rate of payment, you will be entitled the maximum standard rate of payment. If you are already getting the maximum rate, you will continue to do so.

If you are getting an unemployment payment, you will be paid a Back to Education Allowance equivalent to the maximum standard rate of Jobseeker's Benefit or

Jobseeker's Allowance. It will include any increases for a qualified adult and qualified children. This means that a person has to have worked for at least 5 years at some stage in their life to get these contributions.