Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has raised concerns that the government’s Cost of Living package will not go far enough to protect workers and families.
Speaking following today’s announcement, Teachta Kerrane said:
“While all support in the midst of a cost of living crisis is welcome, I am concerned that the government’s package falls short in offering much-needed supports to workers and families.
“Allocations to children and families are welcome, and particularly increases to the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance which cannot be one-off.
“We wanted to see the Fuel Allowance extended to recipients of the Working Family Payment (WFP), who are lower-income households with children and who remain locked out of the scheme. This would have helped low-income households with rising energy costs.
“The announced measures include no additional supports for fuel and heating, despite calls from Sinn Féin to establish a much-needed Discretionary Fund to assist households struggling with utility debt.
“The announcement of lump-sum payments for specific groups, including one parent families and Disabled People, who have some of the highest levels of poverty and deprivation in the State will not be enough. That these payments will not be received until April means that many households will continue to struggle, when supports are needed immediately. Sinn Féin’s proposed package would see supports extended and in place from next week.
“The detail on exactly which groups are eligible will matter as, during the last round of once-off measures, many people with disabilities were left out of receiving payments due to very rigid criteria. The government should make sure that eligibility for these payments is inclusive as possible, to ensure they reach those who need them.
“Furthermore, lump sum payments should not replace focus on making social welfare rates adequate, particularly with regard to Cost of Disability.
“A one-off payment is just that and in many cases, it will be spent before it’s received. Outgoings and rising bills are not one-off.
“That we are not seeing Social Welfare rates increased in this announcement is really disappointing. No increase of rates means these payments continue to be outstripped by inflation and represent a real-time cut for those reliant on fixed incomes.
“Sinn Féin has called for core social welfare rates to be increased by €17.50 in 2023, and for disability-related payments to be increased by €20 in 2023. We have also repeatedly called for a Social Welfare Adequacy Commission to be established, to advise government on social welfare rate adequacy, so that increases can be evidence-based.
“We also know that more and more workers are reaching out to organisations like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for help for the first time. Clearly, this indicates that supports are not readily available via the State as they should be through the likes of Additional Needs Payments. I again call on Minister Humphreys to return Community Welfare Officers to communities so that they are easily accessible and to expedite putting this application online, a suggestion I made last July, to ensure easier access for those who can apply online.”