(Monday 17 October 2022)
In advance of the vote on the Social Welfare Bill 2022, Age Action is calling on TDs and Senators to raise the weekly rate of social welfare by at least €20 to lessen the impact of inflation and the likely rise of poverty and deprivation in 2023.
Celine Clarke, Head of Advocacy and Public Affairs at Age Action, said “While the increase of social welfare and State Pension rates by €12 might seem like a lot, it is cut in real terms when you calculate the lost spending power of the euro. For three years in a row, welfare incomes have fallen in real terms and with energy prices likely to stay high beyond next year, now is the right time to protect those who have the lowest incomes, many of whom have no way of increasing their incomes due to disability, older age or care duties.”
Clarke continued, “We’ve dealt with quite a few calls from people wondering if, how and when they will benefit from Budget 2023 because they didn’t see themselves reflected in the speeches or interviews. Only a minority of older persons will receive all the emergency payments announced for 2022, but the majority of older persons who do not currently receive the fuel allowance or living alone allowance will be waiting until January 2023 to see an increase in their pension or perhaps eligibility for fuel allowance. Even before the budget, many people told us that they were finding it impossible to keep their homes warm or to afford petrol for their car in a rural area, and some people were cutting back on food shopping.”
“Many older persons, carers and people with disabilities depend on the state to provide them with a very modest income to meet their basic needs. Most European countries keep welfare incomes up in line with inflation, but Ireland has failed to do so. This robs people of independence in their lives, and will see more households pushed into unsustainable debt, poverty and deprivation in 2023.” Clarke concluded.
Nat O’Connor, Policy Specialist at Age Action, said “By the end of next year, €10 is only going to buy you what €7.76 would have bought in December 2020. That means, despite the nominal increase of €12, core working age welfare incomes are going to have a spending power of €32.37 per week less than what they had in December 2020. The spending power of the State Pension is going to be €42.54 per week less than what it was in December 2020. While the emergency lump sum payments will go some way to bridging this gap, they don’t go far enough. Not everyone gets every one-off payment, but everyone will feel the loss of spending power in their weekly income.”
“Raising all welfare incomes by €20/week rather than €12/week would cost an additional €600 million, at a time when tax revenue is €12 billion higher this September than the same time last year and where the Central Bank identified that at least €2 billon of Budget 2023 measures were poorly targeted. Not only will boosting welfare incomes save many people from further hardship, all of that money will go straight back into the economy in local shops and services, and back to the state in the form of VAT and other taxes. It is essential for social justice and for the economy that welfare incomes are increased by at least €20 in the Social Welfare Bill.” Dr O’Connor concluded.