Pandemic payments push social welfare budget to over €30bn last year

Department of Social Protection publishes new report on expenditure and recipients

Pandemic-related employment supports  accounted for €8.9 billion of the Department of Social Protection’s  €30.6 billion spend in 2020.

Pandemic-related employment supports accounted for €8.9 billion of the Department of Social Protection’s €30.6 billion spend in 2020.

 

The Government’s social welfare budget swelled to over €30 billion last year, an increase of 46 per cent on the previous year, according to the Department of Social Protection.

A new report published on Monday sets out data relating to the expenditure, recipients and beneficiaries of the schemes administered by the department, including the schemes introduced as part of the Government’s emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It showed that €30.6 billion was spent on social protection payments in 2020, approximately 30 per cent of general Government expenditure. Some €8.9 billion was spent on pandemic-related employment supports.

The report noted that more than 1.2 million people received at least one payment from the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) or the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), with an average payment of €7,200 to date.

Of that total, 788,524 people received at least one PUP payment in 2020.

Overall, men received 57 per cent of all allocated expenditure across the three schemes.

An estimated €5.1 billion was spent on the PUP scheme last year. Dublin accounted for the highest overall expenditure of any county (€1.6 billion), which accounted for 32 per cent of all PUP expenditure, followed by Cork (€502 million) and Galway (€277 million).

The report also showed the accommodation and food service sector had the highest overall expenditure on PUP (€1.2 billion), followed by the wholesale and retail trade sector (€756 million) and the construction sector (€505 million).

The report said social protection expenditure accounted for almost 9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, an increase from 6 per cent in 2019

“This report reflects the exceptional role that my department played in providing an income support to so many people during an extremely difficult year,” Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said.

“Throughout 2020, some €9 billion in Covid-19 related expenditure [was] issued to some 1.2 million people – demonstrating the scale of the undertaking by Government,” she said.

“While the hard work involved in processing all of these emergency payments ensured that payments were made promptly, the everyday work of my department on all other schemes continued as normal,” she said.