For Written Answer on : 09/11/2021
Question Number(s): 476 Question Reference(s): 54586/21
Department: Social Protection
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Social Protection if persons diagnosed with long Covid will be eligible to receive the disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
My Department provides a range of income supports for those who are unable to work due to an illness or disability. It is important to note that entitlement to these supports is not contingent on the nature of the illness or disability but on the extent to which a particular illness or disability impairs or restricts a person’s capacity for employment.
Disability Allowance (DA) is payable to persons aged between 16 and 66, subject to a means test, a habitual residency requirement and a medical assessment – to be eligible a person must have an injury, disease or mental or physical disability that has continued, or may be expected to continue for at least one year and, as a result of this disability, the person is ‘substantially restricted’ in undertaking employment. Legislation provides that the DA means test takes account of the income and capital/assets of the person (and spouse/partner, if applicable) applying for the scheme.
In addition, Illness Benefit is the primary social insurance based support payment for people who are unable to attend work due to illness.
In March of last year, under the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 and subsequent regulations, the Government provided for entitlement to Illness Benefit for persons who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or who are a probable source of infection with Covid-19, called ‘Enhanced Illness Benefit’. This support is payable for two weeks where a person is isolating as a probable source of infection of Covid-19 and up to ten weeks where a person has been diagnosed with Covid-19. The rate of Enhanced Illness Benefit is higher than the normal personal Illness Benefit rate.
These measures were designed to ensure that where a registered medical practitioner or a HSE medical officer diagnoses a person with Covid-19 or identifies them as a probable source of infection of Covid-19, the person can comply with medical advice to isolate, while having their income protected. This is essential to limit and slow down the spread of the virus and to avoid extreme pressure on the health system. In a case where a person continues to be ill beyond 10 weeks, standard Illness Benefit may be paid for an extended period, based on the person’s continued eligibility. Additional payments may also be made in respect of, a qualified adult and qualifying children.
In addition to the above, the Department also provides the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme for those whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. This scheme includes Exceptional Needs Payments, Urgent Needs Payments and SWA Supplements (heat, travel and dietary supplements). These means tested payments may be made to help meet essential expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet from their weekly income.