Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD has said it is deeply disappointing that the most vulnerable members of society have been ignored and abandoned in Budget 2021.
Speaking after the Budget announcement, Teachta Kerrane said:
“Budget 2021 has ignored very obvious key challenges faced by the most vulnerable members of our society– some don’t even get a mention in the Budget, others get mere crumbs from the table. Quite frankly, it’s too little too late and totally abandons the very people who need support the most.
“As we navigate the economic crisis posed by Covid-19, we had an opportunity to invest in workers, families and communities. A Sinn Féin Budget would have done so in order to rebuild our economy to be better, fairer and stronger. Instead, we have a Budget lacking in ambition, which fails to give workers the certainty they need and which abandons those who need help most.
“The Pandemic Unemployment Payment should never have been cut and this Budget was an opportunity to right the wrong and reverse the cut. Instead, however, we learnt that the recent cuts will not be reversed and the planned cuts for early next year will go ahead. This is at a time when businesses continue to close, and workers continue to lose their jobs. It is illogical and will plunge people into financial crisis.
“As a result of these job losses and income plummeting for many workers and families, people across the state are facing a mounting crisis of debt. Incredibly, the issue of mounting household debt does not even get a mention in this Budget. MABS have warned of a ‘tsunami of household debt’ pending with up to a million people set to struggle to meet their repayments. There is nothing in this Budget to support these workers and families. These families are being abandoned at the time when they need government support most.
“The increase in the Fuel Allowance of €3.50 is welcome however, it comes with a €7.50 increase in the carbon tax, a planned increase in the PSO levy and an increase earlier this month for Electric Ireland customers. Such an increase pales in comparison when we have growing energy poverty and the Government continues to sit on a report on the impact of carbon tax increases on low income households. We know what that impact will be.
“For those who have lost their jobs since March, the requirement to qualify for Fuel Allowance to be in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance for 15 months remains and so, many of those most affected by Covid cannot access assistance with their fuel costs. This 15-month rule should have been removed, as was done with the Christmas Bonus. Yet again, this Government is abandoning people who need vital support during the pandemic.
“Parents who have had newborns since Covid hit have been clear that they need additional leave now. Parents have campaigned for this. Paid leave for parents has come to an end, they are expected to return to work yet they cannot access childcare. The three weeks Parent’s Benefit announced today will not be introduced until 2021 leaving parents with no option but to take unpaid leave. Again, this Government’s actions are too little too late.
“There are some positive measures in Budget 2021 from a Social Protection perspective however, the failure to address the most urgent challenges facing workers and families as they face into an uncertain winter allows those very challenges to remain.”