Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has today launched proposed reforms to the State’s social welfare system.
Sinn Féin are calling for three key reforms to the social welfare system to ensure that it is fairer for all:
– Establish a Social Welfare Adequacy Commission to monitor and advise on social welfare rates annually; this would take the politics out of the issue and ensure that rates are evidence-based and fair
– Transition social insurance payments from a flat rate to a percentage of previous earnings; this would ensure that workers who have paid into the system are treated fairly and protected from a sudden push towards poverty
– Benchmark rates for social assistance payments to a Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL); to ensure people are not at risk of poverty
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“The proposed reforms I am publishing today are aimed at transforming our Social Protection system to make it fairer for everyone. This is about ensuring that the system is fair and that people are protected from poverty.
“It is clear that social welfare supports, both means tested payments and those linked to PRSI are currently inadequate with all capped at a rate which is well below the poverty line.
“A Social Protection system should protect those who rely on it from poverty as a very basic objective. Ours does not. This not only puts people at risk of poverty when they lose their job, but further harms the economy by making it much harder for them to get back on their feet and find new work.
“Our Social Protection system should provide supports which ensure that workers do not fall off a financial cliff-edge because they lose their job or have to leave their employment through no fault of their own. These are people who paid into the system and who deserve a fair safety net when they need it.
“That is why we are calling for reforms to how social insurance payments are provided, starting with Jobseeker’s Benefit. We want to see the incremental introduction of payments based on previous earnings (with a maximum cap), to ensure there is no cliff-edge when someone loses their job.
“In addition, Sinn Féin has repeatedly called for social welfare payments which are adequate, and which protect people from poverty. Social assistance rates should be incrementally increased to meet a minimum standard of living, with a view to maintaining this as a floor. This would be done slowly, in a managed way to ensure that this change is sustainable.
“This is underpinned by our longstanding call for the establishment of a Social Welfare Adequacy Commission, which would monitor and advise the Government ahead of the Budget each year, on the necessary rates required across various household types to ensure payments provide for a minimum essential standard of living.
“Sinn Féin believe that social welfare payment rates should protect workers and families from poverty; that the current social welfare system does not provide adequate support for those who need it, and that it must be reformed.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing Cost of Living Crisis has demonstrated that we urgently need to reform the system to provide effective and adequate supports for those who need it, when they need it.
“The recommendations outlined in this document would deliver significant and beneficial changes to our Social Protection system. Sinn Féin’s proposals would be introduced gradually, to ensure that they can be sustainable.
“Sinn Féin are leading the call for an effective social welfare system that supports workers, families and households across the State. It is time for these reasonable changes to be made, so that the social welfare system is fair and fit for the modern era.”
Sinn Féin’s Reforming Ireland’s Social Welfare system is available to view here