Social welfare rates must increase by €8
Increasing core social welfare rates by an additional €8 per week, not a further universal energy credit, must be central to any additional Government supports to address cost of living challenges. A universal energy credit is not the best way to address the impact of rising energy costs as one-off payments will not resolve issues of income adequacy.
Cost of living
The recent increase in deprivation rates among Ireland’s most vulnerable groups (one parent households, people with a disability, and people who are unemployed) must guide policy in relation to cost of living supports. These groups are among those most impacted by the rising cost of living, and they need ongoing, targeted support in the form of adequate social welfare rates rather than one off payments.
The cost of living crisis continues to impact those on the lowest incomes the most. These are the same people and families who were struggling to make ends meet before the spike in energy costs, and who are now falling further behind. Budget 2023 did not prioritise these households. €20 was the minimum increase in core social welfare rates required in the Budget and Government failed to deliver this. Instead, they prioritised one-off payments over income adequacy for vulnerable groups. Government has an opportunity to move beyond one off measures and deliver on the Programme for Government commitment to deliver a better quality of life for all. This means ensuring that those on the lowest incomes are protected and that any additional resources go towards an €8 additional increase in core social welfare rates.
The recent record profits of energy firms further highlight the strong case for a windfall tax on energy suppliers and oil companies, and this revenue should be invested in our energy infrastructure and the reduction of energy poverty. In order to meet our own energy targets, to increase our renewable energy supply and to deliver long-term sustained reductions in energy costs, Government must invest in renewable energy. This means diverting fossil fuel subsidies to support renewable energy and investing substantially to improve and upgrade our energy infrastructure.
When it comes to planning for our energy transition, Government must be proactive, and begin to look at what policy tools it can design to allow it to target and support rural and low-income households in the coming years as policies to meet headline targets in the carbon budgets are rolled out. This should include redesigning the fuel allowance, delinking it from heating fuels and updating and expanding eligibility criteria.