Sunday 22 July 2018

Welfare recipients face wait for €5 boost

Weekly payments to rise from next March

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Anne-Marie Walsh

All social welfare recipients will get an extra fiver a week for the second year in a row.

The beneficiaries include pensioners, the unemployed, carers, widows, the disabled and single parents.

The hike in payments that will benefit just under 1.5 million people will kick in from March 26 next year. It means the full adult rate for the dole will rise to €198 a week, but it will still be lower than the €204 rate for jobseekers in 2009.

Organisations representing welfare recipients have criticised the fact that the increase will not come into force until next March.

Social Protection and Employment Minister Regina Doherty last night defended the delay, which the Labour Party has argued meant the increase was really around €3.75 a week.

She said the money was just not there. "If all Labour had to do is give out about the fact that the changes are only coming in on March 26 next year, then I'll take that charge, because it's a very good charge," she said.

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Click to view full size graphic

"We only had a certain amount of money and if we had introduced the €5 across the board, to all weekly payments, I would have had to stop there, and that wasn't a Regina Doherty Department of Social Welfare Budget."

The rise in payment rates that was championed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in his former role as Social Protection Minister last year is again a centrepiece of this Budget.

Last year's increases were the first in eight years.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe also announced that a Christmas bonus, worth 85pc of weekly payments, would be paid again this year.

And in a move he said would encourage working families and single parents to get back to work and boost their earnings, the minister announced a number of incentives.

There will be a €20 increase in the earnings that those receiving the One Parent Family Payment and those on the Jobseekers' Transitional Scheme can keep without losing their payments.

The threshold for the Family Income Supplement will go up by €10 a week for families with up to three children.

Ms Doherty also announced that employers would be able to benefit from a €10,000 subsidy if they hired long-term unemployed people who are over 50.

Budget documents said the Government would pump €20bn into the Department of Employment and Social Protection next year to allow for a "measured increase" in social welfare payments.

Prior to the Budget, Ms Doherty said that the 139,000 children in consistent poverty - one fifth of whom were in lone parent families - were her chief priority. She said the money was not there to increase the Child Dependent Weekly Payment beyond €2 a week.

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed's head of policy and media Bríd O'Brien said the announcement of the extra €5 was to be welcomed.

However, she said a roll-out from January 1 next year "would be even more welcome".

The National Youth Council of Ireland said it was very disappointing that there was no movement to address the lower rates of Jobseekers' Allowance for those aged between 18 and 25. It wanted a €30 increase next year, to gradually restore rates to the full adult rate after they were cut for young people during the economic crisis.

Irish Independent

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