Poverty-reduction measures ‘fall short’

A LOT more could have been done in the Budget to make a real difference to the lives of Ireland’s poorest children and pensioners, campaign groups claimed last night.

Social Affairs Minister Seamus Brennan said his €1.4 billion budget package — €300 million more than last year — was focused on eliminating child poverty and increasing pensioners’ incomes.

Mr Brennan said all child dependent allowance rates would be increased to a new maximum rate of €22 per child per week from January, and child benefit would be increased by €10 a month from April.

Mr Brennan said he was also delivering on the Government commitment to bring State pensions to €200 a week, with the contributory pension increasing to €209.30, an increase of 16 and the non-contributory pension increasing to €200, up €18.

St Vincent De Paul (SVP) said that while moves made by Mr Brennan to tackle poverty were welcome, it believes he could have done more to help the country’s poorest families.

“A more targeted approach could have been taken to assist those most in need, particularly those on social welfare and low paid employment,” said SVP vice president Prof John Monaghan.

Ireland’s largest children’s charity, Barnardos, welcomed the €10 increase in child benefit, along with the changes in child dependence allowance, but felt the minister could have gone further to make a real difference to the lives of 100,000 children living in consistent poverty.

“Overall, we would give this budget six out of 10, with the additional remark ‘could have done better’,” said Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay.

The national organisation for one-parent families, One Family, were disappointed with the dismal increase in the top-up payment targeted at those with children dependent on social welfare — it was the first such increase in 12 years.

“The nature of the increase means that children in one-parent families, who are the poorest family type, will only receive a paltry €2.70 increase in child dependent allowance (CDA) per week,” said One Family’s policy manager Candy Murphy.

Age Action said it was concerned that the Government had decided not to do more to help Ireland’s poorest pensioners at a time when the State’s coffers were bulging.

But Combat Poverty director Helen Johnston said measures they had recommended had been delivered on and believed the Government was moving in the right direction in terms of tackling child poverty.

Ms Johnston said Combat Poverty had calculated that the increases in CDA, child benefit and the 50% increase in the back to school clothing and footwear allowance meant that a child in a family in receipt of social welfare would get an additional €9 per week.

But SIPTU said the Budget would be seen as “miserly to mothers and children” because of the Government’s failure to adequately increase child benefit, extend it to all families or raise the amount paid to women on maternity leave.

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