Advocacy groups welcome costs measures but criticise lack of targeting

‘Most vulnerable will continue to suffer’, lone-parent organisation One Family says

Groups working with some of the poorest households said while the contents of the package were welcome, it failed to sufficiently target those on the lowest incomes, particularly those with children.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul, which on Thursday published findings that the number of people struggling financially had doubled since the start of the pandemic, welcomed the one-off payment of €125 for those in receipt of the fuel allowance as “much-needed relief for those who qualify for it”.

Dr Tricia Keilthy, head of social policy, said thousands of struggling households did not qualify for the allowance however. "The Government should have used the resources available to provide a sufficient buffer and targeted support to people on low incomes, particularly for households with children."

The society had been seeking increases in core social welfare rates and an extension in the period during which fuel allowance is paid.

‘Missed opportunity’

Karen Kiernan, chief executive of the lone-parent organisation One Family, described the package as "a missed opportunity". "By giving a little back to everyone instead of targeted resources at those most in need, the most vulnerable will continue to suffer," she said. She stressed more than one in every four one-parent families were in consistent poverty.

Louise Bayliss, co-ordinator of the lone parents advocacy group Spark (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids), described the package as "very blunt", saying it gave "too little to too many and very little to those who are struggling the most".

She said the increase in the electricity rebate was “meaningless in the long term” while measures that would have targeted the poorest, like an increase in the qualified child allowance – paid in respect of children whose parents are dependent on social welfare and an increase in the household benefits package (€35 a month and paid to a range of welfare recipients) – would have been “more targeted at those who really, really need help”.

‘Fuel allowance’

Social Justice Ireland said the package", while its contents were "welcome", would "fail to reach many of the most vulnerable".

Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst with the think tank, said: "At a minimum, Government should have committed to benchmarking core social welfare payments to 27.5 per cent average weekly earnings by 2023, starting with an additional increase of €5 to core social welfare rates in 2022."

Sam Moynihan, chief executive of Alone, said older people still needed a "big increase in the weekly rate of the fuel allowance and for it to be paid for longer".

The Social Democrats said the package amounted to “tinkering around the edges” and would “do little to help those struggling to survive in the long term”.

The party echoed calls from others for an increase in core social welfare rates, increased eligibility for the fuel allowance and an increase in the minimum wage.

Ged Nash, Labour Party spokesman on finance, said the package was "half-baked and tokenistic".

“The Government told struggling families to expect little from their cost-of-living package and they did not disappoint.”

In contrast, the Green Party said the measures would “have a very real impact on people’s everyday costs”.