No Government decision on Christmas welfare bonus , says Kenny

Howlin asks if Taoiseach will support Leo Varadkar’s call for full restoration

The Taoiseach said restoration of the Christmas social welfare payment would cost €200 million.  Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

The Taoiseach said restoration of the Christmas social welfare payment would cost €200 million. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

No decision has been made by Government about the Christmas social welfare bonus Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin asked Mr Kenny if the Government would pay the Christmas bonus and if the full amount would be paid. The full bonus is equivalent to an extra week’s payment of a recipient’s normal weekly amount.

The payment had been stopped during the recession and was being restored gradually in the last number of years, with a 75 per cent payment last year, Mr Howlin said.

He pointed out that Minister for Social Expenditure Leo Varadkar said he would seek Government support for a full restoration.

The Wexford TD said it would be a reassurance to anxious pensioners on €230 a week or jobseekers on €188 if they knew now that they would receive the payment at Christmas.

The Taoiseach said restoration of the payment would cost €200 million.

Mr Kenny said the former minister knew “better than most in this House the challenges facing Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohue”.

He said increases were being sought in all social welfare payments in the run up to the Budget. “All I can say is that no decision has been made about any of these but I do hear it being talked about.”

The Taoiseach added that in the 2016 Estimates there was no allowance made for the Christmas bonus and Mr Howlin as then minister for public expenditure and reform was responsible for those estimates.

But the Labour leader replied that the Christmas bonus was always dealt with through a supplementary estimate. “It’s nothing to do with the budgetary process.”

He said Mr Donohue had last week told the budgetary committee there would be no supplementary estimates this year.

Mr Howlin pointed out that payment would be made in this calendar years “so it will accrue to this year’s accounts”.

The Taoiseach agreed there would not be any supplementary estimate.

He added that all decisions on payments would be announced on Budget day.