Know Your Rights
A: Help with school costs
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 can I get?
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
B: Noisy neighbours
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
C: Telephone Support Allowance
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.
Further information about the TSA is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.
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 has been compiled by Co Wicklow Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public. See www.citizensinformation.ie for details of your local centre or phone our main office in Bray on 0761 07 6780
Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, 0761 07 4000.