Responding to today’s Budget, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has expressed concern that increases to weekly social welfare rates “will not go far enough to protect the most vulnerable in our society” when eventually introduced in January.
Speaking this afternoon, Teachta Kerrane said:
“The announced €12 weekly increase to core social welfare rates is inadequate and adds little to an already inadequate social protection system.
“A €12 increase doesn’t protect those reliant on social protection from poverty and does not recognise the impact of the Cost of Living crisis on those reliant on fixed incomes.
“It also will not even come close to protecting people from inflation. With inflation currently at 9.1%, a €12 ‘increase’ is a real time cut on social welfare rates.
“The fact these increases will not be introduced until January is also unbelievable and incredibly out of touch with the struggles that households are experiencing right now.
“Family Carers, Disabled People, Lone Parents and Older People will wait for these weekly increases for another four months.
“People simply cannot wait any longer, which is why Sinn Féin brought forward proposals to increase social welfare rates with effect in October, so people can see additional support now when they need it.
“These are the households who are already living in poverty and making choices between putting food on the table and turning on the lights. Yet, the message is that your fixed weekly income won’t change until January.
“It is also disappointing that the increases for both under 12s and over 12s when it comes to the Qualified Child payments, are both €2 despite ample evidence of the higher cost of raising a teenager.
“As well as this, the announced expansion to Fuel Allowance is welcome but very limited. There will be little additional eligibility for those households who would have been locked out of the scheme before today’s Budget. Those who will gain from the changes to eligibility will not do so until next January.
“We had called for eligibility for the scheme to be expanded to Working Family Payment recipients, to target increased accessibility for the scheme to lower income working families with children. It is disappointing that this has not been included in today’s announcement.
“Sinn Féin has also called for Discretionary Fund to be established, to ensure that workers and families not eligible for the Fuel Allowance and which are struggling with utility debt can receive assistance when they need it.
“While the provision of lump sum payments to households who need additional support is welcome, the detail on these announced payments matter.
“For example, the announced ‘Cost of Living Support’ will only be available to long-term welfare recipients, which potentially locks out those on payments such as Illness Benefit and newly unemployed Jobseekers.
“Sinn Féin had proposed a Cost of Living payment of between €100 and €500, depending in income. Anyone earning under €70,000 would be eligible for the payment, regardless of whether they received their income from work or social welfare.
“Finally, it is disappointing that today’s Budget made no reference to Child Maintenance and no moves on establishing a Child Maintenance Service in the State. This is despite Minister Humphreys having received a report on the matter some months ago.
“Child Maintenance has been show to play a role in tackling child poverty and providing much-needed support for lone parent families.
“While an impressive amount of money has been spent, at the end of the day many households will benefit little from today’s Budget and they will wait.
“Yet again we are seeing that the Government’s approach to social welfare is out of touch and does not go far enough in supporting workers and families when they need it most.”