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Know Your Rights

Know Your Rights
My four-year-old son is starting primary school in September. My only income is my One-Parent Family Payment and €120 from a part-time job. I don’t get any maintenance and I’m worried about the extra costs involved in sending my son to school. What help c

As you are getting a social welfare payment, you may be entitled to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) which can help with back-to-school expenses. Your weekly income must be below a certain level.

You are currently getting a One-Parent Family Payment of €229.80 (including a child payment) and earning €120. Your weekly income of €349.80 is below the income limit of €425.10 for a lone parent with one child so you qualify for BSCFA. In 2018, the payment is €125 for a qualified child aged 4–11.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection pays BSCFA automatically in many cases. If you haven’t received a letter from the Department by mid-July, you need to apply by 30 September 2018.

Application forms are available on welfare.ie, or from your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office. You can also request a form by texting ‘Form BTSCFA’ followed by your name and address to 51909 or by emailing the Department at BSCFA@welfare.ie.

The Department of Education and Skills runs a School Books Grant Scheme which is available to State-funded schools to help with the cost of school books. Some schools run a Textbook Rental Scheme or can help with the cost of buying textbooks. You should contact the principal of your son’s school to find out if any of these options are available.

Know Your Rights
Our neighbours often have noisy parties that keep us awake at night. We don’t really want to call the Gardaí – what else can we do?

Noise nuisance can be a frustrating problem, especially if your family’s sleep is disturbed. You should first talk to your neighbours about the noise and explain how it is affecting your family. Keep a note of these discussions. You could also keep a noise diary, noting the type of noise, time, date, duration and its effects on your family.

If this doesn’t work, you can write to your neighbours, giving details of the noise and how it is disturbing you. You may suggest to them that you will take legal action if the noise continues. Keep copies of your communication with them.

If your neighbours are private tenants, they are not allowed to engage in anti-social behaviour – this includes persistent noise that interrupts the peace of other homes. You can complain directly to the landlord if you do not get a satisfactory response from the tenants. You can also complain to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) if the landlord does not deal with the problem. (The landlord must be registered with the Residential Tenancies Board.)

Tenants of local authority housing must also avoid any nuisance (including noise) to other people in the neighbourhood. If the noise persists, the tenants are in breach of their tenancy agreement and the local authority can take steps to enforce the terms of the agreement.

If the noise continues to be a problem, you could check if there are mediation services available in your area to help you resolve the dispute. You can also file a complaint in the District Court. At least seven days before the date for the hearing of your case, you must serve notice on your neighbours, using the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 - noise form of notice. If the court finds in your favour, it can order your neighbours to take measures to prevent or limit the noise.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights
I am a pensioner living alone. I used to get an allowance towards my telephone bill, but it stopped a few years ago. I heard it might be coming back – is this true?

The allowance you used to get was the Telephone Allowance, which was a monthly payment towards your mobile phone or landline and was part of the Household Benefits Package. This payment was discontinued in January 2014.

What you may have heard about is the new Telephone Support Allowance (TSA). The TSA is a weekly payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) which aims to help with the cost of communications and/or home alert systems for people who live alone and have limited means.

To qualify for the TSA, you must be getting both the Living Alone Increase and the Fuel Allowance along with another social welfare payment such as the State Pension. Since the week of 4 June 2018, the TSA has been paid automatically to people who qualify. There is no application form and you do not need to contact the DEASP to apply.

The TSA is a payment of €2.50 a week. It is paid in addition to your weekly social welfare payment.

If you believe you should qualify for the TSA but have not been getting it since 4 June, contact the DEASP section that pays your main pension or benefit. You can find these contact details on welfare.ie

Know Your Rights
My daughter is leaving school and she is thinking about doing an apprenticeship. How can she qualify for an apprenticeship and how much are apprentices paid?

An apprenticeship is the recognised way that people are trained in a craft trade or profession. It involves both training on-the-job with an employer and training off-the-job in an education centre.

To be eligible for an apprenticeship, your daughter must be at least 16 and should have at least a grade D in five subjects in the Junior Cert. However, some employers may only take on an apprentice with higher qualifications or may have other requirements. If your daughter doesn’t have the required qualifications, she might still be able to do an apprenticeship – she should check with her local Education and Training Board (ETB).

Traditional craft apprenticeships include construction, electrical engineering and motor sectors. For example, there are apprenticeships in carpentry, plumbing, car mechanics and electrical trades. This type of apprenticeship usually lasts for four years. Your daughter should contact the apprenticeship section of her local ETB.

New occupational apprenticeships are being developed in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), medical technology, insurance, finance, accountancy, logistics and hospitality. These apprenticeships last between two and four years. For these, your daughter should apply to the industry lead for the apprenticeship she is interested in. She can also contact the apprenticeship section of her local ETB for information.

While your daughter is training on-the-job, her employer will pay her a recommended apprenticeship wage. If she is training in certain sectors, SOLAS pays a weekly allowance equal to that wage while she is training off-the-job. In all other sectors, her off-the-job payments will depend on her employer, although SOLAS will contribute to travel and accommodation costs.

Your daughter can find a full list of apprenticeships on apprenticeship.ie.

Know Your Rights
I am unhappy with the result in one of my Leaving Cert subjects and think that I should have got a higher grade. How can I get the grade checked?

If you are not satisfied with the mark you got in a Leaving Certificate subject, you can appeal this result to the State Examinations Commission (SEC).

Before you decide to appeal, you can view your examination script at the school where you sat the exam. When you get your exam results, your school will get a personalised application form for you. If you want to view your exam script, you must complete this form and return it to your school by 21 August 2018.

The Organising Superintendent appointed by the SEC will assign you to one of the viewing sessions, on either 31 August or 1 September. You can only view your scripts from the written examinations – not the results of oral examinations or marks for practical examinations.

If you decide to  appeal your result, you can use the online Appeals Application Service. This service will be available from 12 noon on 20 August 2018. You need your examination number and PIN to access this service.

When you apply online and pay the fee, you will get an Appeal Confirmation Form, which you must print and bring to the Organising Superintendent in your school no later than 3 September 2018.

If you cannot use the online service, you must contact the SEC for a personalised appeal application form, pay the appeal fee in a bank and get the bank to stamp the form to confirm payment. Bring the stamped form to the Organising Superintendent in your school no later than 3 September 2018.

Your script will then be sent to an appeal examiner for re-marking.

The appeal fee is €40 per subject for the Established Leaving Certificate. The appeal fee for the Applied Leaving Certificate is €15.50 per subject. You will get this fee back if your result is upgraded.

Know Your Rights
I have an extra room in my home and I would like to rent it out. Will I have to pay tax on this rental income?

If you rent out a room in your home, the rental income you earn is exempt from income tax, PRSI and the Universal Social Charge – provided it is less than €14,000 in a tax year (1 January to 31 December). This is called rent-a-room relief. Rental income includes the total rent and any money that the tenant pays directly to you for food, utilities, laundry or similar services. The income you get must be under the exemption limit of €14,000. If it is over this limit, you are taxed on the total amount.

Your home must be in the State and you must occupy it as your sole residence during the year of assessment. This means that it is your home for most of the year and is where people would normally expect to make contact with you.

Some self-contained units qualify for this relief but they must be attached to your home, for example, a basement flat in your home.  

You do not have to own the property to get rent-a-room relief – you can be a tenant sub-letting to someone else. In this case, you should check with your landlord that sub-letting is allowed.

The rent-a-room relief applies only to residential tenancies, not to short-term guest arrangements, and tenants must use the room on a long-term basis. So, renting a room to a student for the academic year or for a one-month course is covered, but providing accommodation to occasional visitors for short periods, for example, through an online accommodation booking site, is not.

You cannot claim the relief if you are renting a room to your civil partner, son or daughter, or if you are an employee and your company pays you to allow clients to use the room on an occasional basis.

Know Your Rights
I am parenting alone and getting a One-Parent Family Payment. I would like to go back to college. What are my options?

Your options depend on your circumstances. You can go back to education and transfer onto the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) or you can choose to keep your One-Parent Family payment. You will need to assess whether it is more beneficial for you to transfer to the BTEA when you go back to education or to remain on your One-Parent Family Payment and apply for a student grant.

 

If you go onto the BTEA, you will not be eligible for the maintenance component of the student grant. However, you can apply under the student grant scheme for a fee grant to cover the student contribution and course fees/field trip costs (where appropriate). You can also keep your Rent Supplement, medical card and other secondary benefits you may have. If you qualify for the BTEA, you are also entitled to an annual Cost of Education Allowance of €500 as you have a dependent child.

 

If you stay on your One-Parent Family Payment and are studying full-time on an approved course, you can apply for both the maintenance and fee components of the student grant. If you study part-time, you may be able to keep your Rent Supplement. However if you go back to full-time education and stay on your One-Parent Family Payment, you will no longer be eligible for Rent Supplement. If you are on the Rental Accommodation Scheme or living in local authority housing, you continue to pay your differential rent. However, this may be affected by the student grant, depending on your other sources of income.

 

Visit studentfinance.ie to find out more about financial supports while studying.

Know Your Rights
I am 23 years of age and I live with my partner (aged 25) who is currently unemployed and getting Jobseeker’s Allowance. I am now also looking for work. How much Jobseeker’s Allowance am I entitled to?

In general, people aged under 26 get a reduced rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance.

 

As you are cohabiting, you have two payment options. Your partner could claim for you as a dependent adult on their Jobseeker’s Allowance claim. They would be paid their personal payment of €152.80 and €131.40 for you each week. This would give you a total household weekly payment of €284.20.

 

Alternatively, if you claim Jobseeker’s Allowance in your own right, the maximum personal amount you are eligible for is €107.70 a week. Even though the rate paid is less, it might be more beneficial for you because, as a claimant in your own right, you may be eligible for a range of training and employment schemes to help you into employment.

 

If you take up a place on a course of education or training or on an employment support scheme, you get a higher rate of payment. For example, all Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) participants aged under 26 who were getting a reduced age-related Jobseeker’s Allowance payment, get a maximum BTEA rate of €198 per week.

 

You can find the full list of current Jobseeker’s Allowance rates online at citizensinformation.ie.

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