March 13, 2024
Changes to social welfare payments for Ukrainians welcome but distortion of private rental market a real concern – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has welcomed that changes to Social Welfare payment for Ukranians will take effect tomorrow, but warned that the government’s approach could lead to a serious distortion in the private rental market.

The Cork South Central TD said the policy which allows those outside of the five accommodation centres to claim full social welfare payments is incoherent, and would place additional pressures on an already-dysfunctional private rental sector.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“Sinn Féin support an immigration system that is fair, efficient and enforced. We supported the legislation that led to the reduction in payments of social welfare because it has been clear for some time that the number of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland is placing massive pressure on the system. We agreed that payments should be brought down in line with the payments made to international protection applicants.

“But the government’s policy approach is incoherent. The reduced rate should apply to people who arrive after a particular date, instead of the government’s approach. Their approach means that the reduced payment is paid to people in the five new ‘designated centres’ but all others who arrive after that date get the full payment.

“This will create a distortion in the private rental market because Ukrainian refugees could be much better off if they choose to compete in an already overheated private rental market rather than staying in state-provided accommodation.

“The housing crisis, caused by years of poor policies by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, is causing misery the length and breadth of the state. Additional poor planning will create even further pressures on the private rental system.

“For example, a family of two adults and two children in one of the designated centres, between the payments and child benefit, would receive about €828.80 a month.

“A family of the same size outside of one of those centres would receive €2,192 a month and there would be €800 towards rent. Even before the €800 towards rent, they would be 2½ times better off.

“It is not difficult to imagine that some people might decide they would be in a better position if they sought accommodation in the private rental market, and it is for that reason that Sinn Féin tabled amendments to the bill, which the government voted down.

“We also completely oppose the government’s proposal to force Ukrainians out of accommodation after 90 days. Not only will this mean that in places where rents are high that many Ukrainians will not be able to find accommodation, it could also lead to some of them sleeping on the streets.

“We need supports that are sustainable, and in line with other European countries. We have been making the case for several months that payments for those already here should be tapered down in preparation for the end of the Temporary Protection Directive.

“According to reports last week, the government appears to have finally recognised what Sinn Féin has been saying for some time – that the current payment of full rates of social welfare to Ukrainians is simply unsustainable.

“But those already here need clarity. When the directive comes to an end, we expect that Ukrainians who do not get a work visa would be entitled to apply for international protection here, meaning that they would on the same rate as those in Direct Provision.

“Failing to prepare for the future helps no one. There needs to be a thoughtful discussion about the transition period between now and then.

“Sinn Féin believes that between now and next March, the Government should be gradually seeking to taper-off the payments received by beneficiaries of the Temporary Protection Directive. Reducing payments gradually will be key to avoiding any cliff-edges.

“It is unfair that the government has failed to outline a plan for those people. The least they deserve is clarity, and it does nothing for confidence in the system to keep kicking the can down the road as the Minister has been doing up until now.”

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