Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton may not have got to play Santa Claus yesterday but she did manage a role as one of his elves by restoring a small portion of the long-lamented Christmas bonus for social welfare recipients.
Scrapped by the last government in the emergency budget of April 2009, the bonus, which had been granted to long-term welfare recipients since 1980, will partly return in the early weeks of this December.
The bonus had meant welfare recipients received a double payment in the weeks running up to Christmas to help ease the costs of the festive period. It makes its return in the form of a 25% top-up this year which will benefit more than 1.16 million people at a total cost of €63.5m.
Recipients of around 16 different welfare payments will benefit and will get a minimum payment of €20 but pensioners on contributory state pensions will get €57 for single people and €109 for couples.
Ms Burton said she had been anxious to restore at least some of the bonus as soon as she could. “I have very long memories of how important and significant it was to a lot of pensioners that I know and people in my own family and neighbours.”
She said it was not possible to give more than 25% this year. “Money is tight. We are beginning the recovery but we have to be quite careful in how we manage the funds that are available.”
She said it was a welcome dividend from the numbers leaving the live register which reduced the overall welfare bill.
“If we can make the same success next year in terms of getting people back to work, then we can continue it [the restoration of the bonus] next year as well.”
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