Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme (SWA)

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Internal Guidelines

Table of Contents:

Description of scheme
Purpose of the SWA scheme

Qualifying Conditions
Rates Structure




Means Test
SWA Appeals


Description of scheme

The Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) Scheme came into operation on 1 July 1977. It was introduced to replace the home assistance service for persons whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. SWA can consist of a basic payment and/or a supplement in respect of certain expenses a person may not be able to meet.

Purpose of the SWA scheme

The main purpose of the scheme is:-

  • to guarantee a standard basic minimum income;
  • to provide a residual and support role within the overall income maintenance structure;
  • to provide immediate and flexible assistance for those in need who are awaiting decision on payment of other State schemes;
  • to provide people with low incomes with a weekly supplement to meet certain special needs (e.g. rent and mortgage interest payments) or a payment to help with the cost of any exceptional needs they may have;
  • to help those whose needs are inadequately met under the major schemes
  • to help those confronted with an emergency situation.  

The legislation governing the scheme is incorporated in

  • Chapter 9 of Part 3 and Chapter 3 of Part 10 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005
  • Part 4 of Schedule 3 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 - Rules as to Calculation of Means, and
  • Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) Regulations 2007 to 2011.

The SWA scheme was formerly administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Services division of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

From 1 October 2011, the community welfare services and the community welfare officers providing it were formally transferred to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The service and the staff are now part of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.


Qualifying Conditions

Subject to the legislation governing the scheme, every habitually resident person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet his/her needs and the needs of his/her qualified adult or child(ren) shall be entitled to Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

There are two categories of claimants for basic SWA:-

  • People who fail to meet the conditions for entitlement to a weekly social welfare or qualifying HSE payment.
  • People who have applied for a social welfare payment and are getting a Basic SWA payment pending a decision on their claim.

Under the legislation a number of categories are specifically excluded from receiving assistance. These are people in full-time work, people in full-time education and people involved in trade disputes. The qualified spouse and qualified child(ren) of a person involved in trade dispute are not excluded from SWA for the period of the strike.

A person will not be regarded as being in full-time work where he/she is employed for less than 30 hours a week.


The SWA scheme provides for a variety of supplements, see the following separate guidelines:








Rates Structure

Basic SWA is made up of a personal rate for the applicant and additional amounts for any qualified adult and/or qualified child(ren). The current rates of payment are set out in Booklet SW 19.

Means Assessment

The following is a brief summary of how means are assessed. The effective Guidelines used in the calculation of means are those issued to the Department’s representatives.

What counts as means
  • Income from employment or self-employment.
  • Income from DEASP or HSE payments.
  • The capital value of property, other than claimant's own home.
  • The value of any investments or savings (capital).
  • All income and the value of all property of which the claimant deprived himself/herself in order to qualify for SWA.
  • Income in cash e.g. maintenance payments.
  • Benefit & Privilege for person's aged under 25.

Income from Employment or Self-Employment

A claimant may work under 30 hours per week in insurable employment and still qualify for SWA.

Gross income less PRSI and reasonable travel expenses is taken into account for the means test.

Other necessary expenses may be allowed in the case of self-employment.

Property & Capital

Section 35 of Social Welfare & Pensions Act 2007 provides for an amendment in the manner that capital is assessed for the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme. Property/Savings will be assessed on a weekly basis as follows:

Disregard first 5,000 of capital value of property/savings

Assess next 10,000 @ 1 per 1,000

Assess next 25,000 @ 2 per 1,000

Assess remaining capital over 40,000 @ 4 per 1,000

Note - The assessment of capital using the formula outlined above does not apply to Exceptional Needs Payments or Urgent Needs Payments.  For these payments, if the claimant has capital resources or availability to access alternative resources sufficient to meet the need it would be expected that the claimant provide for the need from the source.

Non-assessable means
  • Training allowance while in Rehabilitative Training
  • Child benefit, including equivalent payments from other EU countries
  • Up to 120 of earnings from rehabilitative employment
  • Mobility Allowance
  • Payments received from Tusla – the Child and Family Agency (Foster Care Allowance) for foster children.
  • Payments from Tusla – the Child and Family Agency (Foster Care Allowance) for accommodating children under the Child Care Act.
  • Income from Gaeltacht students
  • Domiciliary Care Allowance
  • Grants or allowances arising in pursuance of a scheme promoting the welfare of blind people.
  • Money received from charitable organisations e.g. St. Vincent de Paul
  • Awards paid to women following the publication of the Magdalen Commission Report
  • Payments awarded by the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board
  • Payments awarded under the Symphysiotomy ex Gratia Scheme
  • Payments awarded under the Lourdes Hospital Redress Scheme 2007
  • Payments awarded under the Lourdes Hospital Payment Scheme
  • Payments awarded under the Stardust Victim’s Compensation Scheme
  • Maintenance grants paid by Local Authorities for Higher Education.
  • Compensation awarded by the Compensation Tribunal in respect of Hepatitis C contracted from certain blood products and to those who have disabilities caused by Thalidomide and to those receiving compensation under the Residential Institutions Redress Board.
  • Maintenance grants paid by Local Authorities for Higher Education.
  • Any income paid as a Respite Care Grant should be disregarded as means for the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.
  • Any income paid by way of Guardian's Payment (Contributory or Non-Contributory).



You should contact the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection's Community Welfare Service at your local office.

You should apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection's Community Welfare Service at your local office as soon as the need arises. You must fill in a Supplementary Welfare Allowance claim form (pdf). To help process your claim, you should have the following:

  • Personal Public Service Numbers (PPS Nos.) for applicant, spouse and children
  • I.D. in the form of birth certs., driving licence, passports, Social Protection services cards, bank card, rent book;
  • Proof of residency
  • Evidence of any income of applicant, spouse and children
  • Confirmation of means
  • Evidence of the need
  • A note from applicant's local Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) office if the applicant has applied for any other DEASP payment and last wages slip if applicant has just applied for Jobseeker's Benefit or Allowance
  • Applicant's Child Benefit book or birth certificates for any children being claimed for if PPS Nos. for them are not available
  • Rent book if applying for help with rent
SWA Appeals

You have the right to appeal against a decision if you are not satisfied with the outcome of your claim. You can appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office. The Social Welfare Appeals Office deals with appeals relating to basic SWA and SWA supplements.

Last modified:11/04/2018

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