Welfare increases benefit one million

ALMOST one million people will benefit directly from social welfare increases from New Year’s Day.

The increases, announced in the Budget, are included in the planned €1.12 billion package of welfare entitlements and supports.

Taking dependents into account, about 1.5 million will benefit.

The Budget provided for €800 million in increases in allowances, pensions and entitlements along with €300m for a range of social policy reform measures.

Minister for Social Affairs Séamus Brennan said the package offered “substantial increases” in the weekly welfare entitlements.

Benefits would also begin to impact, he said, from the e300m package of social policy reform measures. These focus on further increasing recognition of carers, increasing incomes and supports for the most vulnerable older people, tackling child poverty, the further empowerment of lone parents along with the greater activation of back to work, training and education opportunities.

A €17 increase is being provided for 525,700 people receiving lower rate payments and qualified adult allowances for 120,600 people will go up €9.30 to €12.10 weekly.

A minimum increase of €14 a week is being provided for about 180,000 contributory pensioners on full rates, with proportionate increases for a further 127,000 contributory pensioners on reduced rates.

In addition, 96,800 non-contributory pensioners will benefit from an increase of €16 per week.

Mr Brennan said: “The increases, averaging over 10.5% or almost four times the expected rate of inflation in 2006, will directly benefit more than 970,000 people who claim weekly social welfare payments and - when their dependants are included - a total of more than 1.5 million.”

He said that, over the past year, he had been laying out a strong new social reform agenda to give tangible effect to important, and necessary, reforms.

“The reforms, while protecting those who are disadvantaged among us, must also strive to get behind the welfare payments and tackle the social issues involved.

“It is a well established fact that the best route out of poverty is through employment.”

He added: “That is why, through these reforms, I want to create the changes and opportunities that will bring people from welfare dependency to financial independence by providing the stepping stones to a better standard of living and income.”

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