No risk to social welfare payments if household charge not paid


FAILURE TO pay the household charge will not put social welfare payments at risk, the Department of Social Protection has confirmed, while Clare County Council has said it will no longer ask applicants for higher education grants whether the charge has been paid.

Concerns that the State may draw a link between compliance with the charge and payment of a social welfare benefit were sparked after letters were sent by the department in relation to a new Public Services Card. The letter asks that social welfare claimants attend an appointment to register for the new card which will replace the current Social Services Card.

Claimants must bring evidence of their address to the appointment, the letter lists “Receipt for payment of Household Charge” as one acceptable proof of address.

Gisela Schubert, Arklow, Co Wicklow, who received one of the letters, said it appeared from the way it was worded that if an applicant was a homeowner, not a tenant, they must present proof of household charge payment.

“The letter states that you can produce either a property lease, tenancy agreement or the household charge receipt, but if you own your house you won’t have the first two.”

Another point in the letter suggests a bill showing the claimant’s current address should be brought, but, Ms Schubert added, “they don’t ask for proof I’ve paid the bill”.

Niamh McDonald of the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes said the letter was a “sneaky underhand tactic” to frighten people into paying the charge.

“This is another example of the Government preying on the most vulnerable in our society and it shows their desperation that they have not been able to get the information they need to introduce a property tax,” she said.

In a statement yesterday, the department said receipt for payment of the household charge is “not a precondition to secure a social welfare payment”.

A utility bill in the person’s own name was an acceptable alternative proof of address.

“The Department of Social Protection wishes to reassure its customers that payment of the household charge is not a requirement.”

Clare County Council suffered a backlash earlier this week after sending letters to grant applicants asking them to submit proof that the €100 levy had been paid.

“Applicants who do not provide the requested information will be requested to submit complete applications, which may result in delay,” the council said.

Yesterday, however, the authority confirmed: “All eligible applicants, irrespective of whether they have paid the charge, will have their payments issued as expeditiously as possible.”