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Greens seek ‘double-digit’ pension and welfare hikes for ‘anti-poverty’ Budget

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Green Party Junior Minister for Charities and Community Development, Joe O’Brien. Photo: Mark Condren

Green Party Junior Minister for Charities and Community Development, Joe O’Brien. Photo: Mark Condren

Green Party Junior Minister for Charities and Community Development, Joe O’Brien. Photo: Mark Condren

The Green Party is calling for a minimum €10 increase in the weekly State pension and in social welfare payments in October’s Budget.

An injection of €200m  into the Working Family Payment and increases in the  Qualified Child Payment will also be sought in a bid to lift almost 40,000 people out of poverty.

In a sign of simmering Government tensions ahead of the start of Budget talks in the coming weeks, Green Party Junior Minister Joe O’Brien told the Irish Independent he will be “cautious” about Fine Gael’s proposal to cut taxes for middle-income earners.

He said he did not see how the proposed new tax rate of 30pc for those on middle incomes could be “beneficial”.

The Junior Minister for Charities and Community Development said he would lobby for a record allocation for welfare in an “anti-poverty Budget”.

Pensions,  along with other social welfare payments, should also  see “double-digit” increases, he said.

"We need to be going way beyond €5.

"We need to be on double figures in terms of across-the-board increases.”

Mr O’Brien’s statements are the first clear indication of what the Greens will be looking for this year.

“I think that this year, above all of other years, we should be looking at a much larger percentage going to social protection and welfare payments and keeping people out of poverty,” he said.

“I think the case for it is extremely strong on the anti-poverty side as well as the cost-of-living side.”

Mr O’Brien said he would not be as keen to cut taxes as he believed the “solidarity” of the Irish public will allow for a lot of Exchequer funding to be put into helping the poorest.

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“If we tell people, ‘this is going to be an anti-poverty budget,’ they kind of go ‘well, fair enough’.

“I think if the Government said, ‘look, we’re going to protect these people the most because it’s going to damage them the most,’ I think people would respect that and would support it.”

Mr O’Brien has previously said there is a need for €50 base rate increases in social welfare payments and believes this can be achieved “over a period of years”.

He said he also thinks this Budget should see a “very significant increase”, of €100m each, to raise the Working Family Payment threshold and increase the Qualified Child Payment.

This would see almost 40,000 people lifted out of poverty, including 17,000 children.

An increase of €100m into the Working Family Payment, which is currently at least €20 per week and calculated on the basis of household income and number of dependent children, would see income thresholds rise by €46 weekly for a family with one child, and proportionate rises for larger families.

The minister is also proposing an additional €100m be spent to increase the Qualified Child Payment from €48 to €56 a week for children aged 12 years and over, and from €40 to €47 a week for children under 12.

The Qualified Child Payment is currently an extra amount paid to welfare recipients on top of their weekly welfare payment, where they have a dependent child.

In Budget 2022, €350m was allocated to the Working Family Payment and €40m to Qualified Child Payment increases.

These increases would not go hand-in-hand with Fine Gael’s proposed tax cuts to middle-income families, he said.

“We’re getting objective analysis telling us that our tax base is vulnerable because of our dependence on corporation tax. When I’m arguing for improvements on poverty rates, we can’t really do it with a much smaller tax base.”

He said he cannot see how the newly proposed 30pc income tax rate by Fine Gael could be “beneficial”.

“Would that bring in more tax or less tax,” he asked.

"I suspect it would bring in less, in which case I wouldn’t be hugely supportive of the idea.”


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