Case Studies » Unemployment » Jobseeker's Allowance - from 2015 Annual Report (ref: 2015/14)
Background: The appellant’s claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance was referred to a Social Welfare Inspector for an investigation of means. The Inspector reported that the appellant had been renting a house for a year and a half with a [named] person and, prior to that, they had been renting a house together for two years. The Inspector noted that a means assessment for an earlier claim in 2011 had included an assessment of that person’s income and that the appellant had not made an appeal against the decision at that time, although she conceded that the income assessed had been considerably lower at that time. The Inspector noted also that the appellant had received an award following an unfair dismissals action and that he had transferred €12,500 of that award to the other person for what he said were loan repayments. Accordingly, the Inspector considered that they were cohabiting and submitted a report to the Deciding Officer on that basis. Ultimately, the appellant was assessed with means of €522.00 per week derived from his own and his partner’s self-employment, and his claim was disallowed on grounds that his means were in excess of the statutory limit.
Oral hearing: The appellant attended alone, while the Social Welfare Inspector attended at the request of the Appeals Officer. The Inspector outlined the details of her report, making reference to the house that the appellant and his partner had purchased for €235,000 in 2007 – financed by means of the appellant’s contribution of €100,000 from his divorce settlement and a joint mortgage of €165,000. She said that the appellant had reported that he was paying the mortgage while his partner paid utility bills although the accounts were held in his name. She noted that, at interview, the appellant had denied cohabitation.
The Inspector reported that the appellant’s income from self-employment had been assessed on the basis of invoices submitted; these were not complete and the assessment had been completed with reference to bank statements. She stated that she had reported annual profit at €10,523, or €202.36 per week. She stated that the appellant had claimed the [named] person as a qualified adult when in receipt of a Back to Work Allowance payment between specified dates in 2012 and 2014. In conclusion, she noted that the appellant’s investment in the house appeared to far outweigh that of the other person and she reiterated her assertion that they continued to cohabit.
For his part, the appellant denied cohabitation. He said that he had rented a room from the [named] person at two properties. He advised that, subsequently, he got a job in another county and he became aware of a further vacancy in the company and advised her as she had lost her job in the meantime. He stated that they had purchased the house together as a commercial transaction intending to refurbish it and sell it on at a profit. However, that had not worked out. He said that currently the [named] person was barely speaking to him as he was making no contribution to the house and she was paying interest only on the mortgage. He stated that they lead completely separate lives. He said that income details for the [named] person referred to 2012, with income of €20,240 and rent of €3,640 but no other expenses taken into account.
The appellant said also that the [named] person had paid for most of the work done on the house and he believed she contributed more than he had. He made reference to the Inspector’s statement about the claim in 2011 and said he had not made an appeal as he had been paid Jobseeker’s Allowance, albeit at a reduced rate. He said he had never put down on any application form that the person concerned was his partner.
The appellant advised that he had ceased self-employment as he had had to sell his equipment to get money. The Appeals Officer advised that if he wished to submit further evidence, such as accounts in respect of the [named] person which would allow a more accurate assessment of expenses to be taken into account, he would allow a further period of two weeks before determining the appeal; in the absence of any further information, he would proceed to make a decision based on the evidence available.
Consideration: The Appeals Officer noted that the appellant had lived with the [named] person at three different locations over a protracted period and that they had moved together from the north east to the south of the country. In addition, they had obtained a joint mortgage and bought a house together. He noted that the appellant did not appeal a previous decision in 2011 although he acknowledged that the means assessed at the time were small and he noted also that the appellant had claimed for the person concerned as an adult dependant on his Back to Work Allowance between 2012 and 2014. He considered that the evidence indicated cohabitation. He noted that, following the oral hearing, the appellant had written to advise that the [named] person had declined to give details of her income and that the appellant had reiterated his assertion that he should be treated as an individual for means purposes and not as one of a couple. In the absence of any additional details as to income, the Appeals Officer concluded that the appellant had not established that his weekly means were less than the limit provided for in legislation and he noted that even when the appellant’s own income from self-employment was excluded, his means exceeded that limit.
Outcome: Appeal disallowed.