Monday 19 March 2018

Social welfare: €873m in cuts will burden our most vulnerable

Aideen Sheehan

THE jobless will have their dole payments cut by €8 per week from January in a move that will affect up to 438,000 people on the Live Register.

The move to slash almost €400m from working age payments next year is the biggest plank in the Department of Social Protection's plan to shave €873m from its spending next year.

Jobseekers' allowance and benefit, Disability Allowance, One Parent Family and Farm Assist will all be cut from €196 to €188, although younger claimants who already get far less will see smaller or no changes.

The Carer's Allowance will be cut from €212 to €204 for those aged under 66, although it is unchanged for older recipients.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance paid to those who are awaiting a decision on other payment entitlements will be cut by €10 per week.

Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv said he was fully aware that the changes would affect the living standards of many people in the short term.

"However, if we put off these changes, there will be a greater burden in the future on all those who can least bear it," he said.

The reductions would average about 4pc, but were necessary given his department accounted for 38pc of all current spending, or €20.62bn next year, the minister added.

Reducing the numbers on the live register combined with tougher fraud control and measures to get people back into the workforce would all help to minimise the need to cut rates further over the next four years.

His department was also launching a new scheme called Tus to provide 5,000 community work opportunities for the long-term unemployed while another 10,000 work placements and internships would be provided through the Department of Education.

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed accused the Government of punishing unemployed people.

"The Budget makes Ireland a much colder place for unemployed people and today's announcements clearly demonstrate that the government's priority is to continue to make unemployed people pay for the mistakes of others," said INOU coordinator John Stewart.

The St Vincent de Paul predicted that the budget cuts would lead to even more people coming to it for help.

Fine Gael spokesman Denis Naughten said cuts to the disability allowance, blind pension and carers' payments would have a real impact on the quality of life of recipients.

"The risk of poverty for people with disabilities is 37pc higher than the rest of the population . . . instead of allocating these people an additional payment to recognise this, the Government has instead decided to reduce their level of payment. It is sickening," he said.

Housing association Respond said the Budget had widened the gap between the rich and the poor, while the decision to force those in receipt of rent supplement to pay an extra €2 a week for their accommodation was also disappointing.

Mr O Cuiv said he was making reform of the rent supplement scheme a priority as although it was meant to be a temporary measure, it was the biggest disincentive to work in the welfare system and was costing half a billion euro a year to run.

Irish Independent

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