Minister urged to reverse cuts in social welfare

 

INCREASES IN some social welfare payments and the reversal of previous cuts were among the demands made of the Minister for Social Protection yesterday at a pre-budget forum for the community and voluntary sector.

Joan Burton heard pleas from 33 groups, including the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, Inclusion Ireland, One Family, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and the National Association of Widows in Ireland.

Ms Burton said she was there to “listen”, but stressed “the reality is that expenditure will have to be further reduced in the forthcoming budget”.

“I will do my best,” she added, “to ensure that the burden of resolving the crisis does not fall disproportionately on their shoulders. One of my key priorities is therefore to ensure that the department’s reduced resources are targeted at the people who need them most.”

John Hartigan of the National Federation of Pensioners’ Associations said this was the third recession the people he represented had had to endure.

“There have been decreases in the household benefit and increases in fuel charges. Older people cannot take any further reduction.

“We are calling for an increase in the Living Alone Allowance, which has not been increased since 1996 and is just €17.70 a week. We feel an increase of €20 would be reasonable.”

The widows’ association called for an increase in the Living Alone Allowance and in the Fuel Allowance, and for this to be paid year-round.

Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, said Child Benefit must not be cut, saying it had become the “easy target”, having been cut in three successive budgets.

Social Justice Ireland called for increases across all welfare rates, in line with inflation, of about 1.5 per cent.

It said it was possible to cut spending while still protecting the vulnerable “who have taken more than their fair share of the ‘hit’ ”.