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Welfare review is needed due to price hikes, says O’Dea

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Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Willie O'Dea

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Willie O'Dea

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Willie O'Dea

Brexit will inevitably increase the price of food and other basic household items, hitting people dependent on welfare the hardest, Fianna Fáil’s new finance spokesman Willie O’Dea has said.

Mr O’Dea, who was a long-time welfare spokesman, said the Programme for Government guarantees to protect those dependent on social welfare payments from losing buying power due to inflation.

He said that while the overall inflation remains low, a study by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice showed basic items, which take up most of poorer people’s incomes, increased by 6pc over the past two years.

“But in the last two years welfare has not been increased but incomes in Ireland since 2016 have increased by an average of 16pc. Even with this Brexit deal customs clearance and handling charges will drive up grocery and other prices,” Mr O’Dea said.

“The Brexit fallout compound the need to review basic welfare rates. The reality is that the increases in basic household items could be anything up to double that rate of increase over the past two years.”

Mr O’Dea said he welcomed the Government’s Covid-19 payments which included many innovative elements. He said that without these there would be widespread hardship on a serious scale.

“But I have already expressed my disappointment at no welfare rate increases over the past two years. Page 85 of the Programme for Government guarantees to protect our most vulnerable people against the consequences of inflation – but we are simply not doing that,” Mr O’Dea said.

Government figures for the cost of Covid-19 payments at the end of November showed that up to €100m a week was being paid out, making early rate inceases unlikely.
Mr O’Dea also said he feared increased fuel allowances will not compensate all welfare recipients for carbon tax increases on solid fuel prices.

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