Radical overhaul would see regular social welfare increases

Social welfare payments would likely increase on a yearly basis as part of an overhaul proposed by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.

Radical overhaul would see regular social welfare increases

Social welfare payments would likely increase on a yearly basis as part of an overhaul proposed by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, writes Elaine Loughlin, Irish Examiner Political Reporter in Glenties.

Mr Varadkar plans to link social welfare benefits to the cost of living or to average earnings, which is likely to see increases in payments on a regular basis as the rate of inflation rises.

However, Mr Varadkar has added that he does not want to increase child benefit payments.

Speaking at the MacGill Summer School this morning the minister highlighted the importance of protecting the value of social welfare payments both now and into the future.

“I believe this can best be done by indexing weekly social welfare payments to the cost of living or to average earnings, and enshrining that principle in legislation.

“This will ensure that people who depend on these payments never again see their standard of living eroded or falling behind society in general.”

Changes and increases to payments would depend on whether they are ultimately linked to the consumer price index or are based on average wages, which were both put forward by Mr Varadkar in Glenties, Co Donegal this morning.

“While the economy has recovered fully, living standards have not and the rise in inequality has not yet been reversed. When people say that they haven’t experienced the recovery in their lives or their locality, it’s probably because they have not."

He added that €5 per week increase in child benefit across the board would cost €60m a year.

“The same amount of money invested in reducing the cost of school, childcare or healthcare, would in my view go a lot further,” Mr Varadkar said.

The Minister said that the cost of going to school is much higher than other countries where subsidised school meals, school books and school transport are prioritised.

He said that more money should be pumped into these of schemes, adding that his department already spend €3m-a-year on breakfast clubs in schools and he plans to increase this next year.

“While Ireland compares well in terms of headline pay rates, social welfare payments and personal taxation, much of this is negated by the high cost of accessing services like childcare, education and healthcare and also housing.

“Reducing the cost of these services will be so much more valuable to struggling families and citizens than small changes to tax and social welfare. Being able to access affordable childcare will overcome a major barrier to workplace and educational opportunities for many families, particularly lone parents,” Mr Varadkar said.

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