Contributory/Social insurance payments
Social insurance payments are given to people who satisfy specific social insurance contribution conditions (PRSI conditions), in addition to the necessary circumstantial conditions. These conditions vary, depending on the payment you apply for. Examples of payments based on your social insurance contributions include Jobseeker's Benefit, Illness Benefit, Maternity Benefit, Invalidity Pension, Carers Benefit and State Pension (Contributory)..
The Relevant Tax Year for a claim is the second last complete tax year before the start of the year you are making the claim, for example, if you are making a claim in 2010, the relevant Tax Year is 2008
Non-Contributory/Means tested payments
Means-tested payments are primarily designed for people who have insufficient PRSI contributions to qualify for the equivalent social insurance-based payments. An example would be a person who becomes unemployed, applies for Jobseeker's Benefit but fails to qualify because he or she has insufficient contributions. He or she can instead apply for Jobseeker's Allowance, which is the means-tested equivalent payment.
Means-tested is when the Department of Social Protection will examine all your sources of income to find out if they fall below a certain level. The method of testing your means varies from payment to payment. In some instances, you are allowed a certain amount of money before your entitlement to a payment is affected. The rules that determine how much you can or cannot have depend on the payment you apply for and are often referred to as income disregards.
Universal payments are paid regardless of a person's income or social insurance record. They are only dependent on the claimant satisfying specific personal circumstances. An example would be Child Benefit (the Children's Allowance is its more common term). A person must simply have a child dependant living with them as defined in the social welfare legislation. (Migrant workers from EEA Member States may get Child Benefit if their dependent child is resident in another EEA Member State). Another example is Free Travel on public transport for residents over 66 years