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Self-employed to benefit from the dole for the first time from November

Expected 6,500 applicants a year set to benefit from payment of €203 a week

The move will also benefit the many thousands of contractors who work for multinationals and smaller companies around the State on a self-employed basis. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Self-employed workers will be able to benefit from a welfare payment of €203 a week should they find themselves out of work from November. It will be the first time that the self-employed have been granted access to jobseeker’s benefit, and it will be paid at the same rate as those who are employed and lose their job.

The move, which was first announced in las year’s budget, will also benefit the many thousands of contractors who work for multinationals and smaller companies around the State on a self-employed basis.

“This new benefit supports the Government’s aim of creating a supportive environment for entrepreneurship, including providing an income safety net to employees and self-employed alike,” Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty said.

“The introduction of a new Jobseeker’s Benefit scheme for the self-employed represents the next step in the Government’s work to extend PRSI benefits and will provide an income safety net to thousands of small and medium businesses throughout the country.”

Up until now, the only State benefit the self-employed could access when their work dried up was jobseeker’s allowance. However, this was means tested and based on previous year’s income, which would have excluded many.

It is expected that up to 6,500 individuals could benefit from the payment at any time in a year. The benefit will be paid at a maximum rate of €203.00 a week to the applicant, with payments also potentially available for dependents; a qualifying adult payment of €134.70 a week may apply for example, as well as an increase of up to €34 a week per each child under the age of 12, and €37 a week for each child aged 12 and over.

Applicants will also have access to the full range of employment supports available to other jobseekers, such as referral to group information sessions, one to one interviews and subsequent caseworker support.

Applicants will have to satisfy a PRSI test to access the payment. As is the case with previously employed applicants, self-employed workers will need to have 260 or more self-employment PRSI contributions paid to get jobseeker’s benefit for the full nine months. Those with fewer than 260 contributions will get the payment for six months.

Self-employed workers have been able to access an enhanced range of welfare payments in recent years. These include treatment benefits, which includes free eye tests, dental examinations and contributions towards the cost of hearing aids, and the invalidity pension, as well as having entitlement to a full state pension, and statutory maternity/paternity pay.

However, when those who are self-employed find themselves out of work on a short term basis due to ill-health, they still can’t access illness benefit.

Drafting of the legislation needed has commenced, with the new scheme expected to be available from November 2019.