An increase of €10 per week in core social welfare rates, enhancing the support grant for carers and a single rate state pension are among the measures being called for by Social Justice Ireland in its pre-Budget submission.
As well as increasing welfare payments, SJI is urging the Government to commit to benchmarking core social welfare rates to 27.5% of average earnings over two years.
“Given the very difficult situation people across the country are in as a result of Covid-19, benchmarking minimum rates of social welfare payments to movements in average earnings is an important policy priority,” Dr Sean Healy, CEO of Social Justice Ireland said.
Michelle Murphy, Research and Policy Analyst with SJI, said the benchmark was essential to meeting the state’s own anti-poverty commitments.
“We estimate that more than 12,000 working age adults would have been raised out of poverty in 2016 had minimum social welfare payments been benchmarked at 27.5% of average earnings,” she noted.
According to its calculations, SJI estimates that 27.5% of average weekly earnings in 2021 amounts to €222.
That equates to a shortfall of €19 between current minimum social welfare rate of €203 and the threshold.
The call comes against the backdrop of rising consumer prices with the annual rate of inflation running at a decade high of in excess of 2% according to the most recent set of figures from the Central Statistics Office.
The increase was largely accounted for by rising transport and energy costs which is manifesting itself in higher home heating and electricity costs.
Rise in core welfare rates
An initial €10 increase would see the basic rate of Jobseekers Allowance rising to €213 per week.
The submission also calls for an alignment of the rates of payment of the contributory and non-contributory state pension.
The non-contributory state pension is currently paid at a weekly rate of €237 for those up to the age of 80 and €247 to those over that age.
The contributory pension is paid at a weekly rate of €248.30.
Together with the proposed €10 increase, that would see the basic weekly payment to all state pension recipients rising to €258.30.
SJI also calls for an increase in the annual Carer’s Support Grant to €2,000 and an extension of the Carer’s GP Visit Card to those in receipt of Carer’s Support Grant.
It’s seeking an increase in the domiciliary care allowance to €330 from €309.50 as well as an expansion of the Free Travel Scheme to include people in receipt of the Domiciliary Care Allowance.
It recommends that the Government commits to introducing a universal basic income pilot.
Sean Healy expressed concern about the treatment of those reliant on social welfare in recent budgets.
“A lesson from past experiences of economic recovery and growth is that the weakest in our society get left behind unless welfare increases track improvements elsewhere in the economy. Budget 2021 was the second budget in a row which failed to deliver an increase to the minimum social welfare payment,” he said
“A repetition of this failure in Budget 2022 would leave those who are most vulnerable in a very difficult position and see them fall further behind,” he concluded.