Social welfare package will cushion the blow but offer little long-term comfort

Budget 2023: While one-off payments will help those in dire need, small increases in core payments will disappoint

Social protection measures costing €2.2 billion in Budget 2023 constitute “the largest [welfare] package in the history of the State”, Heather Humphreys stated several times on Tuesday. She knows, however, it is unlikely to protect the most vulnerable households from stark choices this winter.

Through a combination of one-off payments of between €200 and €500, three electricity payments of €200, as well as double payments of social welfare benefits in October and December, the Minister hopes to cushion the blow of the escalating cost-of-living crisis on those most at risk.

These payments will undoubtedly help and will be welcomed with open palms when they arrive in bank accounts in coming months; but, as we all know, eaten bread is soon forgotten and the harsh cost-of-living crisis is not going to end after Christmas.

That is why the increases in core social welfare payments — ie those paid weekly to working-age adults and pensioners — of €12 a week is so disappointing to many. These come into effect in January, by which time most of the one-off payments will be well spent.


At a time when inflation is averaging 8.5 per cent, these welfare increases of about 6 per cent will leave the poorest households facing greater hardship in early 2023 than they faced last January, say advocacy groups.

The qualified child payment, which is paid in respect of children of adults dependent on social welfare, will go up by just €2 a week — to €42 a week for children under 12 and to €50 for those aged 12 to 18.

One Family, which advocates for single-parent families, said it was “really concerned” about what its families faced in January. Its policy manager Niamh Kelly said: “We have a short-sighted Budget which will leave the poorest children in the State even poorer.

“The increase of €12 for core social welfare payment and €2 additional payment for children will do nothing to mitigate against poverty in 2023. This is far from what we believe is necessary.”

Irish Rural Link, representing rural communities, welcomed “some of the one-off payments” but said these would not tackle the structural underpinnings of rural poverty.

“The €12 increase in core social welfare will not go far enough for those on fixed income,” it said. At a post-budget press conference, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath responded to criticism of the €12 rate, saying a balance had to be struck.

“We sought to provide as much support as we possibly could to people and I think people in receipt of social welfare, whether they be carers or people on disability allowance or pensioners, will look at it in the round.”

Ms Humphreys herself is reported to have sought increases of €15 in core welfare payments while many NGOs had sought increases of between €20 and €30.

At her department’s press briefing she agreed that, even with the large increases, it had not been “possible to meet every demand or do everything we would wish to do”.

She will hope the “largest package in the history of the State” will go some way to assuaging fears. However, it is unlikely to silence critics.