Wednesday 17 January 2018

Burton pledges more pension increases if Labour is re-elected

Tánaiste Joan Burton
Tánaiste Joan Burton
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Tánaiste Joan Burton has indicated that the Labour Party will commit to raising the pension each year if it is re-elected to government.

Ms Burton has rejected criticism by some advocacy groups of the €3 increase in the Budget, describing it as "a start".

As the Social Welfare bill was published yesterday she said: "I committed to improving the position of pensioners this time last year. I would commit to doing that again this time next year if the people decide to return us to Government."

Asked if older people could look forward to pension increases in subsequent years, Ms Burton replied: "That's what I would hope."

The Labour Party's manifesto has not yet been signed off but will contain a series of election promises aimed at older people.

"I'll make no secret of the fact that I believe our pensioners should be a priority for the country," Ms Burton said.

She rejected criticism of the small increase in the old-age-pension contained in Budget 2016.

"For some people obviously €3 a week wouldn't be much but for others it's a significant amount," she said, adding that the Budget had also resulted in increases to other benefits that many older people receive, such as the fuel and carers' allowances.

Ms Burton said she was particularly proud to bring the Christmas bonus, which will be paid to social welfare recipients during the first week of December, back to a level of 75pc.

"It's a package. There are several improvements that are of benefit to pensioners.

"During the crash a lot of them helped to look after their children and grandchildren financially and I think it is time that we as country give something back."

Ms Burton also said that the child benefit, which was raised €5 in the Budget, will remain as universal payment rather than a means-tested one under the Labour Party.

"If the Labour Party is in government, yes it will. The critical thing about how our economy has changed in recent years is that a lot of people are now self-employed, particularly in the construction industry.

"This is one of the few benefits that self-employed families with children actually get."

Speaking as she launched the Social Welfare bill, which will give effect to the measures announced on Budget day, she said the alternative to a universal system was "to introduce a very costly and bureaucratic system of means testing".

"It's not an alternative to childcare. We've strong childcare support measures in this Budget which are going to start to develop the kind of childcare system that this country needs and deserves.

"We don't recognise children in our tax system so it's society's way of recognising the cost of rearing a child."

Irish Independent

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