Pensioners score hat trick as third €5 hike is on way
PENSIONERS and all other social welfare recipients have scored a Budget hat trick after getting a fiver a week hike for three years in a row - but the latest increase will be paid only from the end of March.
The extra cash will boost the full €243.30 a week contributory State pension to €248.30.
Dole payments will rise to €203 a week - just €1.30 lower than the €204 rate for jobseekers in 2009.
But the hikes will not kick in until March 25 next year.
All 1.5 million social welfare recipients, including pensioners, the unemployed, widows, carers, the disabled and single parents, will have more money in their pockets due to the increase.
And Employment Affairs and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty announced that the self-employed will become eligible for Jobseekers' Benefit from the end of next year.
She said the increases for welfare recipients were above the rate of inflation and intended to ensure there was a reward from the recovering economy for the vulnerable.
But she joked that although she thinks she is "deadly", she would never have the ability to achieve all she wanted to alleviate poverty.
She said there was room for departments to get together to address housing issues and free school books for children.
Interim chief executive at Age Action Anna McCabe said she was pleased to see the €5 hike but claimed it had been eroded by the cost of living, including utility charges, health and homecare costs.
National president of St Vincent de Paul Kieran Stafford said there was still a problem with the cost of education and housing, which would take away from a lot of the hikes.
The Social Policy and Legislative Officer at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Ger Gibbons, said it was disappointed the Government had not helped workers who have to go on the dole before they reached the age to qualify for the State pension.
The age stood at 66, and would rise to 68 over a number of years.
He said a previous government's decision to abolish a transition pension four years ago costed someone who had to retire at 65 but could not get the pension until 66 up to €45 a week - or €2,300 a year.
"The ICTU is disappointed that the Government chose not to address this issue in Budget 2019 but is determined to continue campaigning until it is resolved," he said.
Brid O'Brien, of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, welcomed the hike in the dole but called on the Government to get rid of lower rates that were brought in for younger people during the crash.
Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on social protection, Willie O'Dea, claimed the three successive increases in social welfare payments showed his party had delivered on its word to support the less well-off and vulnerable.
Meanwhile, the Qualified Child Payment will rise by €2.20 per week for under 12s and €5.20 a week for over 12s.
The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance will rise by €25 per child, benefiting 145,000 families.