Minister Doherty Announces Budget Package to Deliver Increases across Core Welfare Payments

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Minister Doherty Announces Budget Package to Deliver Increases across Core Welfare Payments and Specifically Impact on Children in need

€361 million of additional social welfare expenditure provided in Budget 2019

Targeted increases for children and lone parents

New deal for the self-employed

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, T.D., has today (Tuesday, 9th October 2018) announced a social welfare package of €20.5 billion for 2019, which includes €361.6 million in additional social welfare expenditure. It provides for an increase in all weekly social welfare payments, supports work and enterprise, and is focused on improving the economic and social wellbeing of children and families through a range of targeted and enhanced supports.

Announcing the measures in Budget 2019 the Minister said:

“Today’s Budget announcement demonstrates this Government’s commitment to both restoring and maintaining the real value of core welfare payment rates. Just as importantly, it demonstrates our commitment to funding and making adjustments to those elements of the social welfare code that can deliver greatest impact in terms of alleviating poverty for those groups most at risk. That is why we once again increased all core weekly payment rates by €5 and, crucially, focused the changes over and above this on families with children.”Key features in today’s Budget announcement include:

  • Increased weekly payments for each qualified dependent child - €2.20 for children under 12, and €5.20 for children aged 12 and over;
  • €25 increase in Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance – 265,000 children to benefit;
  • Working Lone Parents on One-Parent Family Payment and Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment can earn an extra €20 per week, up to €150, and keep their full payment;
  • Working Family Payment recipients to benefit from a new maintenance disregard;
  • New Parental Benefit to be paid for 2 weeks for each parent - to commence in Quarter 4, 2019
  • Self-employed to become eligible for Jobseeker’s Benefit from Quarter 4, 2019
  • A 100% Christmas Bonus will be paid in early December 2018 to 1.2 million recipients
  • €5 increase in maximum rate of all weekly social welfare payments benefiting 1.47 million people
  • National Minimum Wage will increase from €9.55 per hour to €9.80 per hour with effect from 1 January 2019 – 151,800 employees to benefit.
  • New Hot School Meals Pilot Programme for DEIS schools to commence in 2019 – over 7,000 children to benefit initially.

Targeted supports for children and families

The Minister today announced increased weekly payments for each qualified child as well as a €25 increase in Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. In addition, working Lone Parents receiving One-Parent Family Payment and Jobseeker’s Transitional Payments can now earn an extra €20 per week, up to €150, and keep their full payment.

The Daily Expenses Allowance (formerly Direct Provision Allowance) paid to people seeking asylum will, as recommended in the McMahon report, also increase by €17.20 to €38.80 per week for adults and by €8.20 to €29.80 per week for each child – with 5,200 adults and children to benefit.

Commenting on the measures to support families and children the Minister said:

“Since becoming Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, I have committed to prioritise the needs of families, especially those on lower incomes and lone parents.  Working parents who each day strive to balance the needs of their families and the demands of their workplaces make an immense contribution to Irish society and the Irish economy. The social welfare changes in this Budget recognise these important roles, as well as the additional challenges faced by lone parents.”

The increase in the qualified child rates and the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance combined with changes to assessments for lone parent and working family payments will target resources to those families which need assistance the most.”

The Minister also mentioned that she was introducing a new Hot School Meals Pilot Programme for DEIS schools to commence in 2019. She explained the rationale for the pilot scheme:

“Research shows us the value of the provision of adequate and nutritious meals for a child’s health, learning, attention and educational achievement.  That is why I am providing funds to establish a pilot programme for a hot meals scheme in schools.  Hot dinners will be provided on a pilot basis in up to 36 DEIS schools to some 7,200 children.  If successful, I would hope to work with the Department of Education and Skills in extending the scheme on a much wider basis in future years and establish the scheme on a permanent basis.”

The Minister also announced the introduction of a new Parental Benefit, in addition to existing Maternity and Paternity Benefits. Two weeks of paid Parental Leave per parent will provide real support to parents, allowing them to spend valuable time with their newest family member. She added:

“The Government recognises the importance of providing support for parents of young children and recognises that the first year of a child’s life is of particular importance and this was very much emphasised in the programme for Government. A recent inter-Departmental Committee set out recommendations as to how we might proceed to introduce this measure.

“Today, working with the Department of Justice and Equality, I am happy to announce that my Department will introduce this scheme in late 2019. Both parents will have access to two weeks’ each of this benefit which will be paid at the same rate as Maternity Benefit and Paternity Benefit which will be €245 per week. I am particularly pleased that this measure recognises the need to incentivise fathers to take more time off work to care for their children than has been the case up to now. The evidence shows that when fathers take a more significant and meaningful share in the parenting of their children the individual family benefits, and so does wider society. It is our intention to incrementally increase this to up to seven weeks parental leave over the next few years.

A new deal for the self-employed

The Minister also announced the extension of access to Jobseeker’s Benefit to self-employed people. With this change, the self-employed will now become eligible for Jobseeker’s Benefit.  This is a further extension of social welfare benefits to the self-employed based on their Class S PRSI contributions. It is expected that some 6,500 people  will become eligible in the first full year of operation. The Department will introduce this scheme in late 2019.

Commenting on the new scheme, Minister Doherty said:

“This Government has sought to encourage enterprise and, particularly, has sought to introduce a new deal for the self-employed when it comes to their access to benefits.  We have already extended Treatment Benefits and Invalidity Pension to the self-employed in recent years to ensure that they reach some parity with employees in the benefits they can access from the social insurance system. The extension of Jobseeker’s Benefit to self-employed people for the first time represents the next step in the Government’s work to extend full PRSI benefits and provide an income safety net to employees and the self-employed alike.”

Increases in social welfare payments and the Christmas bonus

Announcing the changes to weekly social welfare payments and supports for the low waged the Minister said:

“I am delighted to have secured a €5 increase for the 1.47 million people in receipt of weekly social welfare payments, including pensioners, widows, carers and people with disabilities, lone parents, jobseekers and people participating on Community Employment schemes. This weekly increase will make a meaningful difference in many homes across Ireland, and is the third such increase in succession since 2017.”

The Minister also announced that the Social Welfare Christmas Bonus will be paid at a rate of 100%, for the first time in a decade. The Minister added:

“This morning, I secured Government approval for the payment of the social welfare Christmas Bonus, at a rate of 100%. Paid in early December, this will benefit all recipients of long-term social welfare payments including carers, people with disabilities, pensioners, and lone parents. I know that Christmas in many homes across Ireland depends on this bonus, and this will be the first year since 2008 in which the Government, owing to sound economic and fiscal management, has been able to provide a 100% Christmas Bonus.”

Additionally, the Fuel Allowance season is again being extended by one week, to 28 weeks. The extra week will apply at the end of the current season, with some 373,800 households to benefit.  Fuel Allowance is a means-tested payment for people who are dependent on long-term social welfare payments and who are unable to provide for their own heating needs in full.

Additional funding totalling €10m is also being provided to support the Free TV licence and Free Travel services – services which the Minister noted are greatly valued by senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Disability Research

Finally, the Minister announced that she is also providing funding to commission research into the cost of a disability.  She explained:

“As part of the pre-budget consultation process that I and my Department have held with stakeholders, the issue of cost of disability was raised.  Consideration of the issue was also recommended in a recent report by the combined Joint Oireachtas Committees on Education, Health and Social Protection. 

There are considerable issues to be addressed in both defining and measuring the cost of disability.  Hence, during our pre-Budget forum I acknowledged that while there may be extra cost to having a disability, the Government would need to consider further research before arriving at the most appropriate response.

“Today, I am announcing my intention to commission this research – a first step to comprehensively and effectively addressing this issue. This research, when complete, will provide a roadmap to inform policy direction in the future – from a whole-of-Government perspective – in relation to the adequate provision of support to meet the needs of people with disabilities. We recognise that those with a disability face additional financial costs. This research will help us to quantify those costs and start to provide for them in future Budgets.”

A full list of today’s measures can be found in the Budget 2019 Factsheet.

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Last modified:09/10/2018