Monday 16 September 2019

Doherty unable to guarantee increase in old-age pension due to Brexit concerns

Regina Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)
Regina Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty is unable to guarantee any increase in the old-age pension in this year's budget because of the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

The minister refused to be drawn on what plans she has for social welfare increases, including the old-age pension, at a pre-budget forum in Castle today. The government has raised social welfare entitlements by €5-a-week in each of the last three budgets.

But with Brexit looming, Ms Doherty said she couldn't guarantee any increase in the budget this October. "No because I can’t guarantee the outcome of Brexit," she said. "So until we are sure of what we are dealing with next year I don’t think it would be wise to give anybody a promise at this stage, no."

She also warned that the annual €5 increases risked diminishing the value of the payments to those who in receipt of welfare entitlements. The Fine Gael TD said targeted increases would more more effective.

"If we keep continuing doing a fiver across the board for everybody first of all it kind of diminishes in the value but second of all it doesn’t actually hit the people who really need the attention from the state the most and so those 120,000 children who are living in consistent poverty, they don’t get helped by a fiver across the board they get helped by targeted increases."

She said these targeted increases could come in the form of increases in qualified child payments, more school meals programmes, payments for school books and increases in the back to school clothing a footwear allowance.

Ms Doherty said there would be a social welfare package in the budget, but she added: "Until I know until how much money I have to spend I can’t give any guarantees and I certainly won’t make any promises to anybody because I think that would be unfair."

The government is facing calls today from Age Action to increase the state pension by as much as €9 in the budget. The government has committed to setting the pension payment to at least 34 per cent of average weekly earnings.

"What’s most important to me is to make sure that whomever is living on the fixed income that the state gives a minimum standard of living - an absolute base which below we do not go and right now none of our payments actually reach that base," Ms Doherty said.

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