Budget 2017: Social welfare payments to rise €5 from next March

Christmas bonus to rise from 75% of weekly payment last year to 85% this Christmas

All weekly social welfare payments are to increase by €5 per week from March 2017, bringing basic rates to €193 per week, under Budget 2017.

Many of these payments have not seen an increase for seven years.

The Christmas bonus for weekly social welfare recipients will be increased from 75 per cent of the weekly payment last year to 85 per cent this Christmas, equating to €159.80.

On childcare, there is to be a new affordable childcare scheme from September next year.


This will provide means-tested subsidies based on parental income for children between six months and 15 years, and a universal childcare subsidy for all children aged between six months and three years.

The affordable childcare scheme has been hailed as a "breakthrough" by the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI).

The scheme will provide means-tested subsidies, based on parents’ or guardians’ income and paid directly to child-minders or childcare providers. These must be registered with Tusla.

Childcare subsidy

There will also be a universal childcare subsidy for the parents or guardians of children aged between six months and three years, targeted at those on the lowest incomes, from next September. Funding for this scheme is €35 million next year.

Welcoming the package, the NWCI s described it as a “significant change of direction” with the “potential to have a huge positive impact on women’s equality”.

It was a “first step to developing a publicly subsidised universal childcare model” which was “the most important public service in order to increase women’s participation in employment and civic life”.

Orla O’Connor, director of the council said: “This applies to women across all income groups as they are the most likely to drop out of employment when they have children.

“We therefore particularly welcome the start of a universal payment that will be available to parents in all income groups.

“While funding is still very limited at this point, the scheme has the potential to have an enormous positive impact on women’s equality if further funding is provided.”

Immediate reaction to Budget 2017 from groups supporting lone parents, however, has been less enthusiastic.

Karen Kiernan, chief executive of One Family, said it represented a "missed opportunity" to "to strategically support vulnerable one-parent families".

One in four families with children is headed by a lone parent and these families have the highest poverty rates of all households, with almost 60 per cent of adults and children in these families experiencing one or more deprivations.

The organisation welcomed some measures, including the €5 per week increase in the One Parent Family Payment and the Jobseekers Transitional Payment (to which lone parents with children aged between seven and 14 are entitled), and the increase in the income disregards for these payments - from €90 per week to €110.

However, it said there was “no cohesive attempt to break down the barriers that one-parent families in receipt of social welfare face”.

Family Income Supplement

Though details of changes have yet to be given by the Minister for Social Protection this evening, it appears there will be no change to the requirement that lone parents who are working and whose children are aged 7 to 14, must work at least 19 hours a week to qualify for Family Income Supplement (FIS).

For many this is impossible, with school drop-off and pick-ups, if they cannot begin work until 10am and must leave at 1.30pm.

“What is needed to lift these families out of poverty is not a mystery,” said Ms Kiernan.

“Simply, we need targeted financial supports for poor children; a childcare system that is accessible to poor families and available outside of school hours, a defined education pathway for people parenting alone, the ability to make work pay through in-work supports, and a system that can be clearly understood.”

Age Action Ireland welcomed the €5 per week increase in the State pension, saying it was the first step towards a promised increase of €25 per week over five years made by the Government.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times