Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has today launched the party’s Alternative Budget social protection proposals to support workers and families.
The measures are part of the party’s wider Alternative Budget, which is aimed at supporting households through the rising cost of living crisis.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“Over the course of the past year, we have listened to countless personal stories of people across the State struggling to make ends meet. We have also heard the stark reality from organisations on the ground working to support families in financial difficulty.
“We know that Government cannot protect households from every price rise and that some circumstances are out of our control. However, more can and must be done to support households.
“This year’s Alternative Budget has been particularly difficult to prepare given the many crises facing society – the cost of living crisis, the housing crisis, the crisis in health and growing poverty levels.
“Poverty is one of the greatest challenges we face as a State and Social Protection is key to tackling and ending poverty. Of course, no one Budget will achieve all that we need to achieve.
“That is why Sinn Féin is proposing Social Protection measures which are targeted to support families and children, Disabled People and Family Carers, who are often faced with additional costs and are not adequately assisted by our social welfare system.
“We are proposing payment rates for disability-related supports, such as Disability Allowance and Blind Pension, to be increased to €20 per week. This increase is intended to recognise the additional Cost of Disability and a first step to making supports adequate to meet those additional costs people with a disability face in their day-to-day lives.
“We also want to see greater supports for Family Carers, including increasing the Carer’s Support Grant to €2,000 per year. A longstanding call from Sinn Féin, we would introduce a State Pension for Longstanding Carers, a gap which must be addressed as soon as possible.
“As well as this, we are proposing increasing core social welfare rates by €17.50 per week, introduced across two phases in 2022 and 2023. Social welfare rates have long been set below the poverty line and have now been significantly outstripped by recent rises in inflation.
“We are proposing these rate increases as part of a longer-term aim to bring these social welfare payment rates in line with a Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL).
“In addition to our proposed measures for 2023, we are putting forward a cost of living package which would take effect from Budget day, and which would provide a range of immediate supports for households across the State.
“These measures include a Cost of Living payment of €500 for social welfare recipients with income of less than €21,300. Implemented by the Department of Finance and Department of Social Protection, the payment would range from €500 to €100, based on individual income (whether this comes from work or social welfare) and would provide households with a much needed cash payment as we head into the winter months.
“Energy costs have soared over the past year and projections tell us that energy poverty levels could reach unprecedented levels if not addressed. We would increase the weekly Fuel Allowance rate by €5 and expand eligibility to Working Family Payment recipients as a means of reaching lower-income working families across the State.
“Many households are locked out of the Fuel Allowance, and so we would introduce a Discretionary Fund of €15m for those who are struggling with utility debt. This is a measure we have called for since February last year.
“Sinn Féin has repeatedly put forward costed and sector-backed proposals to Government, which would ease the pressures workers and families are facing.
“To date, the Government has largely chosen to ignore these calls, despite reports on the growing threat of energy poverty and household debt as a result of the crisis.
“People cannot wait any longer for supports which assist with the rising cost of living. As we face into an uncertain period and into the winter months, we must use the available resources of the State to support workers and families.”