Welfare must increase in Budget 2024

Posted on Friday, 25 August 2023
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Adequate levels of social welfare are essential to addressing poverty. Income adequacy cannot be addressed by one-off measures.

Without the social welfare system just over one-third of the Irish population (36.7 per cent) would have been living in poverty in 2022. Such an underlying poverty rate suggests a deeply unequal distribution of direct income. In 2022, the actual poverty figure of 13.1 per cent reflects the fact that social welfare payments reduced poverty by almost 24 percentage points. 

If Government is serious about meeting its own poverty targets and supporting households on the lowest incomes who, through good and bad economic times, struggle to live life on a low income, then the core rates of social welfare must increase by €25 in the budget at a cost of €1,047m.


Equalising Rates for under-25s

In addition, the rate of jobseekers for those aged between 18 and 24 (not living independently) is currently inadequate to meet even basic needs and must be raised to the full adult rate at a cost of €63m. This increase will move us towards the benchmark of 27.5 per cent of average weekly earnings. This benchmark is hugely important to improving the living standards of many in Irish society, and to achieving anti-poverty commitments. This benchmark should be used as the starting point in the development of a pathway to index core social welfare rates to the Minimum Essential Budget Standard over time.

Older people living alone

In the most recent data on poverty rates from the Central Statistics Office shows that 143,633 older people are living in poverty in 2022. Worryingly, this is an increase of over 55,000 since 2021. If we are to halt and reverse this trend, Government must increase the Living Alone Allowance by €5 a week at a cost of €62.5m

Increase access to Fuel Allowance

Taking a five-year reference period (March 2018-2023) the CSO found that prices for Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels, prices increased by 102.2 per cent. Absorbing such a price increase has an impact on every household, however the impact is most acute for those households on the lowest income. Social Justice Ireland  calls for the payment to be extended to those in receipt of Working Family Payment at a cost of €44.5m.This also unlocks secondary benefits such as access to retrofitting grants. 

Reinstate Bereavement Grant

Recent research from the Irish Hospice Foundation shows that 30,000 households every year are impacted by a bereavement with many facing difficult and unforeseen costs. The Bereavement Grant should be reinstated at the rate of €850 per person deceased at a cost of €31m.

If Government is serious about reaching any of the poverty targets contained in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion, the SDGs or Programme for Government, welfare rates must increase in Budget 2024.

Budget Choices 2024 is available to download here.