MORE than a million people will be affected by the Government’s decision to scrap the Christmas social welfare bonus, and some will be forced into the hands of moneylenders, Labour has warned.
The bonus consists of a double payment coming up to Christmas, but the Government announced on Budget Day that it would no longer be paid.
Speaking during a Dáil debate on the issue last night, Labour social affairs spokeswoman Roisín Shortall called on the Government to reconsider.
“Claimants stand to lose up to €240.30 each or about 2% of their income. In the case of most married couples, the combined loss will be well over €400.”
“For goodness sake, if as a country we could afford a Christmas bonus in 1980, how on earth can we not afford one in 2009?” she queried.
“Evidently, it’s OK in an emergency to suspend payments to long-term welfare recipients yet leave untouched the hundreds of millions in tax relief for the pensions of rich company directors,” she said. “Evidently, people on low fixed incomes can afford to take a hit next Christmas while the 6,000 tax exiles remain untouched by tax reform.”
In response, Social Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin said the decision to scrap the bonus had probably been the toughest one made in the budget.
But she stressed: “The harsh reality is that if some cuts were not made now, much tougher ones would have to be made later.”
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