The last #GE16 word from the parties on ... Welfare reform

Question: Welfare reform has been highlighted as a priority issue for them. Can you set out your own parties thinking on the need, if any, for reform of the welfare system and to what end?

The last #GE16 word from the parties on ... Welfare reform

RENUA Ireland: Paul Bradford (Candidate in Cork East)

RENUA Ireland plans to introduce stringent conditions where those who are on welfare for a sustained period of time will have to engage in community work or training to continue to receive their payments.

RENUA Ireland is committed to minimum lifestyle standards and also in ensuring that work always pays.

We want to build a decent society where a safety net exists for all.

We particularly believe such protections should be extended to the self employed.

However as a party we also want to ensure that work really does always pay and to tackle the worrying phenomenon of intergenerational unemployment.

A life on welfare is debilitating and impacts negatively on self-esteem.

RENUA Ireland wants to give people opportunities but to also remind them of their responsibilities.

All people in receipt of social welfare who have been unemployed for more than six months will be enrolled in community employment schemes or alternatively an expanded JobBridge apprenticeship programme.

Nobody will get state assistance without contributing to their communities.

A minimum of 20 hours per week will be sought in return for job seekers payments.

People with disabilities who wish to participate in these schemes will be able to do so.

Our proposals are guided by the desire to guide the unemployed back into that life of meaningful work and activity that builds self respect and responsibility.

Sinn Fein: Gerry Adams - (Candidate in Louth)

Social protection payments exist to support and protect the most vulnerable in our society. The reality for each and every one of us is that at some point in our lives we will need this support, be it if we lose our job or come to draw our state pension. When it mattered, Fianna Fáil targeted the young and the old and cut child benefit.

Fine Gael and Labour promised to protect citizens in receipt of social welfare payments but did the same and worse with their cradle to the grave cuts – from Maternity Benefit to the Bereavement Grant and perhaps most cruelly, cut the Respite Care Grant.

Under both governments watch the numbers of people experiencing enforced deprivation, for example having to go without a warm waterproof coat, heating for their home or nutritious food has increased from 11.8% in 2007 to 29%, and the number of people living in consistent poverty has almost doubled.

Sinn Féin’s manifesto commits us to targeted supports including restoring equality for young Jobseekers, raising the cut-off age of the One Parent Family scheme to 12 years old, increasing FIS by 10% and increasing Disability allowance by €20, lowering the pension age, increasing the fuel allowance, restoring the Bereavement Grant, ensuring job activation schemes are of high quality and support job creation by shutting down JobBridge, making greater use of the JobsPlus and Community Employment Schemes, and establish a Social Protection Adequacy Commission.

Social Democrats: Ken Curtin - (Candidate in Cork East)

A strong social safety net is vital to prevent poverty and social exclusion. It must also provide security in old age and with the onset of disability or other difficult life events. The best designed welfare systems also ensure that there are good incentives and opportunities to progress out of unemployment or into education or training.

The social safety net in Ireland has been significantly eroded in recent years with cut-backs

in the basic rates of social welfare payments by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, and cuts in

secondary benefits by Fine Gael and Labour. Some groups, such as lone parents and the young unemployed have been particularly badly affected. Meanwhile long-standing issues such as the cost of disability, older people living alone, and direct provision remain to be adequately addressed.

If we truly want to achieve a recovery for all, then we believe the priorities of the next

Government should be as follows:

1. Eliminate Poverty Traps

2. Make activation about the person rather than just cost cutting

3. Increase all Social Welfare & Pension Rates in line with cost of living increases as a minimum

4. End Direct Provision

5. Within six months develop a new Anti-Poverty Strategy

6. Better Administration

AAA/PBP: Paul Murphy (Candidate in Dublin South West)

All of the cuts in the area of social protection should be reversed. That means a reversal of the cut to social welfare rates, to young people’s unemployment benefits, a reversal of the cuts to the One Parent Family Payment, child benefit, the telephone allowance and the Back to School Allowance. Schemes such as JobBridge and Gateway which are about exploiting the unemployed should be abolished and replaced by a RealJobs scheme which provides people with proper training, education or decent work.

Corporate welfare, effectively transfers of wealth from the public purse to corporations, amounts to an estimated €15 billion a year. It should be cut immediately by 10%. This could be achieved by targeting such areas as: Stamp duty relief for Intragroup Transactions, Capital Acquisitions Tax Business Relief and the exemption from income tax of returns on Irish Government Securities owned by non-residents.

Fianna Fail: Billy Kelleher - (Candidate in Cork North Central)

We need to develop a fairer welfare system that is fit for purpose in the 21st century. We will ensure that there is a strong safety net for those who require it and that the young, vulnerable and older people are supported. We will:

- Increase the state pension by €30

- Increase working age payments by €10

- Recognise the cost of disability with a €20 increase in disability, invalidity, blind and carer’s payments

- Restore Lone Parent payments from 7 years to 12

- Increase child benefit by €10

Fine Gael: Simon Coveney - (Candidate in Cork South Central)

Fine Gael believes that work, rather than welfare, is the only sustainable route out of poverty. As well as the introduction of the Working Family Payment, we will increase the minimum wage to €10.50 during the second term and cut the 8.5% rate of Employers’ PRSI to €6.5%. We will reform Jobseekers’ Benefit to provide a better safety net for those experiencing short spells of unemployment – and our new network of Intreo centres provide employment and income supports to jobseekers in the one place, for the first time.

Green Party: Eamon Ryan - (Candidate in Dublin Bay South)

We are committed to spending €780m over 5 years on Childcare Subsidy and €75m over 5 years on Lone Parent’s Allowance. We would reverse the cuts to lone parents allowance.

We would introduce refundable tax credits.

Labour: Tánaiste Joan Burton - (Candidate in Dublin West)

We will:

Increase welfare payments at least in line with the cost of living

In households dependent on one partner’s jobseeker payments, ensure the right to work, training and education supports can be accessed by either partner

Expand the Youth Guarantee scheme to offer more opportunities to those under 26 and pay the full rate of jobseeker’s allowance to those participating

Phase out JobBridge and Gateway

Create 10,000 new places on JobsPlus to help the long-term unemployed

Introduce income-linked jobseekers payments to empower workers to move between jobs and bounce back from short-term unemployment

Increase social welfare payments for older people by at least €5 each year to bring the State pension to €260 by 2021

Introduce a new occupational pension scheme to provide workers with a more secure and dependable retirement package

Provide flexible retirement options for those who want to stay at work

READ MORE: The last word on ...

- The red line issues

- Health

- Mental health and disability services

- The economy

- The cost of living

- Law and order

- Housing crisis

- The EU and Brexit

- Vision for Ireland's future

Source: Answers supplied to irishexaminer.com as part of our #GE16 Q&A blog with participating parties/groupings running more than ten candidates.

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