Friday 19 April 2019

Linking welfare payments to rate of inflation will take politics out of it - minister

Regina Doherty
Regina Doherty

Sarah MacDonald

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has said linking welfare payments to consumer prices and wage increases will take the politics out of what people receive.

Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea has previously said he would "fight to the death" to prevent future increases in the old-age pension being linked to the rate of inflation.

His party and Fine Gael, which it supports in Government, are now set for a major clash over indexation plans.

However, speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Ms Doherty said the social partners have told her that they want a minimum standard of living to be assured to people and the only way to achieve that is through guaranteed indexation.

"The future level of these payments should not be left in the hands of politicians but should be guaranteed and benchmarked to ensure longer term reassurance to those who depend on them," she said.

Ms Doherty added that she wanted to "put a stop to the nonsense" of political bartering between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over welfare payments.

She hopes legislation allowing for indexation will be passed later this year.

The minister addressed members of St Vincent de Paul in Dublin at the weekend as the organisation marked its 175th anniversary in Ireland.

Ms Doherty outlined how social welfare has played a role in alleviating poverty.

This year, more than €20bn will be spent on social welfare to 1.4 million people each week, including pensioners, people with disabilities, carers and jobseekers, as well as over 630,000 families receiving child benefit each month for 1.2 million children.

Referring to the latest data from the Central Statistics Office's 2017 'Survey on Income and Living Conditions', Ms Doherty said it showed that the consistent poverty rate was 6.7pc, down from the 2016 figure of 8.2pc - the largest year-on-year reduction in the rate since 2007.

Referring to the €5 increase in weekly social welfare payments in the last two Budgets, Ms Doherty said she now wanted to move towards guaranteed indexation for payments so as to provide greater certainty to welfare recipients.

She said there needs to be a shift away from the narrow concept of social welfare payments as something simply for those out of work, towards a broader understanding of "social protection".

Irish Independent

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