Labour to oppose axing of Christmas bonus for welfare recipients

MOVES to cancel the traditional Christmas bonus given to welfare recipients will be challenged in the Dáil, it emerged last night.

Labour is to force a debate on the issue this week to highlight what it sees an unpopular measure in the emergency budget.

The party’s social welfare spokesperson Roisin Shortall hit out at the cut as “particularly mean-spirited” that was targeting the most vulnerable in society.

She said the €156 million saving amounted to a 2% cut in welfare payments.

“Families who are dependent on the social welfare system have come to rely on the extra payment to meet the significant additional costs that everyone faces at Christmas.

“People are subjected to huge commercial pressures and a barrage of advertising at Christmas. Families dependent on social welfare are not immune to these pressures.

“There is now a real danger that the decision to cancel the extra payment at Christmas will drive families into the hands of money-lenders or that they will take out high-interest loans from other sources.

“I acknowledge that the supplementary budget was drafted against the background of an unprecedented economic crisis, but there were alternative revenue-raising measures the Government could have taken that would have allowed the Christmas bonus to be paid. The Government could have decided to further restrict interest relief on rental property. It could have decided to restrict tax relief on private pension schemes,” she said.

Ms Shortall said the Dáil move was needed as the measure could not be brought into law without TDs voting on it.

The Government has defended the cut, saying it was the only way to protect across the board welfare payments from reductions. It stressed a drop in prices of some 3% will be beneficial to shoppers.


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