Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Press Release VFM examination report on Means Testing

Press Release issued on 21 February 1996

VFM examination report on Means Testing

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr John Purcell, has carried out an examination of the means testing procedures which provide information on the financial status of applicants for various state and local authority assistance schemes. A report of the examination has been presented to Dáil ?reann today.

At least 600,000 means tests are completed every year at a cost of over ?15m. The examination identified 42 means tested schemes, twenty of which were administered by the Department of Social Welfare or the health boards. The Public Accounts Committee of Dáil ?reann has in the past questioned whether the multiple testing of applicants is efficient and necessary.

The examination identified three principal inefficiencies.

In a test examination, 40 per cent of applicants already in receipt of welfare payments were retested to assess eligibility for other schemes.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance recipients are subject to testing by the health boards who administer that scheme and by the Department of Social Welfare in respect of any other social payments they receive.

When tested, 38 per cent of applicants were found to have no means at the time of application, suggesting that in many cases a full means test may be unnecessary.

The study recognises that impediments to increased harmonisation and efficiency exist. For instance, means data are mostly recorded in manual format, the sharing of data is constrained by data protection legislation and some awards are discretionary.

The examination identified a number of options which could make means testing more efficient. (Adopting some of the options would rule others out.) These include

  • use of a single means testing agency
  • greater categorisation of claimants on the basis of risk, to permit interim awards to low risk cases
  • greater integration of schemes to make service delivery more client-centred
  • linking of assistance schemes so that qualification for one scheme may serve as a passport to other schemes
  • adopting a common definition of means.

For further information about the report contents, please contact:

Seamus McCarthy

Tel: +353 1 679 3122

Fax: +353 1 679 3288


Publication Details

VFM Report No. 8: Means Testing

ISBN 0-7076-2337-5

Price ?5

Government Publications Sales Office

Sun Alliance House

Molesworth Street

Dublin 2

Tel: +353 1 661 3111

Fax: +353 1 475 2760

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