Independent Alliance seeks €10 welfare increases

Finian McGrath calls for rises in disability and carer’s allowances in Budget 2019

Finian McGrath said he was working with Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty on a new payment to help ‘people with disabilities who are living in poverty’. Photograph: Tom Honan

Finian McGrath said he was working with Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty on a new payment to help ‘people with disabilities who are living in poverty’. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The Independent Alliance is calling for an increase of €10 in some welfare payments next year, when Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will have significantly more money to spend.

Finian McGrath, the Minister of State for disability issues, said the final budget in the confidence and supply deal should see the disability and carer’s allowances increase by double the rate they have in the last two budgets.

Mr McGrath said “the issue” for next October’s package will be that Mr Donohoe will have an estimated €3 billion available for tax cuts and spending rises, significantly more than in the past two years.

Both payments have been increased by €5 per year for the past two years, with the extra money announced last October due to take effect from the end of March.

The carer’s allowance currently ranges from €209 per week for a person aged under 66 caring for one person to €370.50 aged 66 or over and caring for two children. The disability allowance is currently worth €193 per week.

Knock-on effects

However, Mr McGrath’s request could have knock-on effects because the Government with the agreement of Fianna Fáil, whose abstention is needed for budgets to pass, opted for a €5 across-the-board increase in all welfare payments.

A push for a €10 increase in some payments could lead to similar demands for other payments but Mr McGrath, a Dublin Bay North TD, said his ambition entering government was to increase payments for those with disabilities and carers.

“We are tackling it in phases,” he said in an interview with The Irish Times. “We had €5 last year, €5 this year; we increased the disability allowance and carers’ allowance.”

“When I came in first as Minister... I wanted to increase the disability allowance by €20. And of course the guys said: ‘You can’t, we’ll give a fiver.’ And then the following year, give another fiver.

“There was a big debate in government. The rest of them said: What about the pensioners, senior citizens? My view is to make sure that every person with disabilities has a reasonable income and to get out of the poverty net.”

Optimistic

Mr McGrath said he was “optimistic” both the disability and carers payment would be increased by €10 in the October budget.

Next October will see the conclusion of the confidence and supply deal, which commits Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to introducing three budgets, with each split on a two-to-one basis between spending increases and tax cuts.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he would like to extend the deal, although Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin says he wants delivery in areas such as health and housing and would not give Fine Gael a “free pass”.

Mr McGrath said he would be “delighted” if the Government passed three budgets.

“I’d even be ambitious to say we might even go a fourth budget.”

Mr McGrath also said he was working on a new payment to help “people with disabilities who are living in poverty” with Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty.

“We are working . . . on some sort of way that we can help those people who are not getting enough. They are getting some but they are not getting enough.”