Entitlements/Statutory Support if I am unable to work

Your first step before applying for any benefit is to find out which payment you may be entitled to. This can depend on your social insurance record, your means and your circumstances.

There are two main types of cash payments:

Social insurance payments, based on Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. You are eligible for social insurance benefits, which are not means tested, if you satisfy PRSI contribution conditions, as well as any other conditions attached to the payment.

Means-tested social assistance payments, for those whose income is below a certain level. Your eligibility for means-tested payments depends on your income and assets as well as other conditions attached to the payment.

The Department of Social Protection (DSP) publishes detailed information about each payment as well as general booklets. If you are not familiar with the system, the most useful of these booklets are the 'Guide to Social Welfare Services' and 'Rates of Payment" You can get information booklets and claim forms at your local social welfare office, online at www.welfare.ie or at www.citizensinformation.ie

Drugs Payment Scheme

Under the Drugs Payment Scheme (DPS) you or your family will not pay more than €80 each calendar month for:

Apply for the scheme if you do not have a medical card and you pay more than €80 a month for any of these.

Anyone living in Ireland and intends to live here for at least 1 year can apply.

Apply for Drugs Payment Scheme Card

Medical Card

If you have a medical card issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE), you can get certain health services free of charge. Normally, your dependent spouse or partner and your children are also covered for the same range of health services.

Anyone who is ‘ordinarily resident’ in Ireland can apply for a medical card. This means that you are living in Ireland and intend to live here for at least one year.

To qualify for a medical card your weekly income must be below a certain amount for your family size. Cash income, savings, investments and property (except for your own home) are taken into account in the means test.

If your income is above the guidelines you will automatically be assessed for the GP visit card which has higher income limits. You can also apply for the Drugs Payment Scheme.

There are different means test rules for those over 70 years of age.

Apply for a Medical Card

GP Visit Card

If you are not eligible for a medical card you may be eligible for a GP visit card. A GP visit card allows you to visit a participating family doctor (GP) for free.

The GP visit card does not cover hospital charges. Prescribed drugs are not free but may be covered by the Drugs Payment Scheme. The GP visit card does cover visits to GP out-of-hours services. Blood tests to diagnose or monitor a condition are covered.

In order to qualify for a GP visit card, you must meet the eligibility rules and be ordinarily resident in Ireland. That is, you must have been, or intend to be, living in Ireland for at least one year. You can read more about entitlement to public health services.

Upcoming changes to GP visit card eligibility in 2023

The GP visit card is available to everyone aged over 70 without an income test.

If you are aged under 70, you use the same application process to apply for a GP visit card as for a medical card. As part of the application process for the GP visit card, your entitlement for a medical card will also be assessed.

You can apply online for a medical card or GP visit card on 

Apply for a GP Card

Illness Benefit

Illness Benefit is a short-term payment made to insured people who are unable to work due to illness. You must apply for Illness Benefit within seven days of becoming ill. You must be aged under 66, unable to work because of illness and meet other criteria to be eligible for this benefit.

After 12 months on Illness Benefit, if you are permanently incapable of work and you satisfy the PRS| conditions, you may consider applying for Invalidity Pension. This is paid at a higher rate and opens the way to other benefits (see below).

For further information on Illness Benefit, contact the Department of Social Protection, PO Box 1650, Dublin 1.

Tel: (01) 679 7777 or go to www.welfare.ie

Invalidity Pension

This is a long-term payment made to insured people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or disability.

Invalidity Pension opens the way to other benefits such as free travel, fuel allowance and the Household Benefits Package.

You must satisfy certain medical and social insurance (PRSI conditions to qualify for this payment.

Invalidity Pension is payable for as long as you are unable to work. At the age of 65, the personal rate of payment increases to the same rate as State Pension. At age 66 you transfer to the State Pension (Contributory). For more information, go to www.welfare.ie

Disability Allowance 

Disability Allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people with a disability. You can get Disability Allowance from 16 years of age. If you are in education when you turn 16, you can continue to attend school. 

If you qualify for Disability Allowance you may also get extra social welfare benefits with your payment and other supplementary welfare payments. 

To qualify for Disability Allowance (DA) you must: 

As a result of this disability be substantially restricted in undertaking work that would otherwise be suitable for a person of your age, experience and qualifications 

Be aged between 16 and 66. When you reach 66 years of age you no longer qualify for DA, but you are assessed for a State pension. 

Disability Allowance is a means-tested payment. To get the allowance your total assessed means must be below a certain amount. The main items that count as means are: 

Application Form

Partial Capacity Benefit

Partial Capacity Benefit is a social welfare scheme which allows you to return to work or self-employment (if you have reduced capacity to work) and continue to receive a payment from the Department of Social Protection (DSP).

If you have been getting Illness Benefit (for a minimum of 6 months) or Invalidity Pension and wish to return to work, you may qualify for Partial Capacity Benefit if your capacity for work is reduced by your medical condition.

You will qualify for Partial Capacity Benefit if your restriction on capacity for work is assessed as moderate, severe, or profound. If it is assessed as mild you will not qualify.

You can use a Benefit of Work Estimator tool on www.welfare.ie to help you check the financial consequences of starting work and claiming Partial Capacity Benefit.

There is no requirement that the work a person does while on Partial Capacity Benefit has to be for rehabilitative or therapeutic purposes.

More information

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you are heading on holidays within the EU, make sure you have your EHIC.

This is a free card that gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 27 EU countries.

Apply here 

The Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme

The Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme is a means-tested payment which gives assistance to people who may not qualify for other benefits.

It consists of a basic payment, called Supplementary Welfare Allowance, and other financial supports which include rent and mortgage interest supplements, diet supplements, heating supplements, payments for emergencies and payments for urgent needs

You may get Supplementary Welfare Allowance if you:

Further information 

Sick leave

It is at the discretion of your employer to decide their own policy on sick pay and sick leave. By law, an employer must provide an employee with a written statement of terms of employment within two months of starting the job. This must include the terms or conditions relating to incapacity for work due to sickness.

An employer cannot require you to take annual leave for a certified period of illness. Workers in Ireland are allowed to accumulate statutory annual leave entitlement during a period of certified sick leave.

You may apply for illness benefit if you have enough social insurance contributions. If you do not have enough social insurance contributions, you should contact the Department of Social Protection's representative at your local health centre who will assess your situation. For further information, go to www.welfare.ie

If you have consistently been absent from work through illness or are no longer capable of continuing work, you are protected against termination in certain circumstances under the Unfair Dismissals legislation.

Third Level 

Going back to education

If you are unemployed and are getting certain payments from the Department of Social Protection, you may be eligible to take part in a second or third-level education course and get a Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) Go to www.welfare.ie for further details

Disability Access Route to Education (DARE)

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a college and university admissions scheme which offers places on a reduced points basis to school leavers with disabilities under the age of 23 in Ireland. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis qualify as a Significant Ongoing Illness under this scheme. The application for supplementary entry is simply an extra section of your overall CAO application. As well as completing some extra information on the online form, you are required to complete and return two hard copy forms known as the Educational Impact Statement and Evidence of Disability forms. 

Further information on the application process and participating college are here:  www.ahead.ie/dare 

Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a college and university admissions scheme that offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. For full details, go to http:// accesscollege.ie/hear/

Fund for Students with Disabilities

The Fund for Students with Disabilities allocates funding to further and higher education colleges for the provision of services and supports to full-time students with disabilities. The fund aims to ensure that students can participate fully in their academic programmes and are not disadvantaged by reason of a disability or illness. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis qualify as a Significant Ongoing Illness under this scheme. For full details. go to: 

Additional Supports and Resources

Citizens Information Board: Provides information, advice and advocacy on a broad range of public and social services. They provide free, confidential, independent and impartial information to all. You can log onto the Citizens Information Website at www.citizensinformation.ie, call in person to your nearest Citizens Information Centre or phone the Citizens Information Phone Service: 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.

Department of Social Protection: For information on employment rights and supports like illness benefit go to www.welfare.ie or tel (01) 704 3300, LoCall 1890 928 400.

Gettingbacktowork.ie is provided by the Citizens Information Board. The website provides comprehensive information on the supports available to job seekers, the interaction between social welfare benefits and links to relevant websites.