On September 27th 2022, the Government published Budget 2023. A key focus of the measures announced was addressing the cost of living crisis facing so many people in Ireland. The INOU’s Pre-Budget Submission covers three key issues of concern for the organisation:
- Adequate Income
- Inclusive Labour Market
- Activation Programmes
Under this heading a key ask for the INOU was that social welfare payments would be increased by €20 per week. The Government announced that they would increase social welfare payments by €12 per week in January, bringing the maximum received on a working age payment up to €220 per week. The most recent inflation figures from the Central Statistics Office are over 9%, and even though Eurostat have noted that inflation in Europe has dropped for the first time in seventeen months, the reality is that the €12 increase will not address the challenges facing people struggling to make ends meet on a social welfare payment.
The early double payment sought by the INOU was a welcome development, as was the announcement of €400 lump sum for people in receipt of a Fuel Allowance payment. In seeking to support people through the cost of living crisis the Government were clearly anxious to ensure that the impact on the state’s finance was not permanent. The downside of this is that for many people the income they are receiving is inadequate and greater improvements to core payments are required. Otherwise it will be impossible for people to achieve a minimum essential standard of living.
Inclusive Labour Market
Amongst the key asks in the INOU’s pre-budget submission was one calling on the Government to “Ensure that individuals and communities most disadvantaged in the labour market are pro-actively provided with tailor made supports to address their issues.” There was little in the Budget on this issue, though the Government did announce that there will be access to the higher rate of JobsPlus subsidy for employers hiring candidates from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. JobsPlus is a scheme to encourage employers to recruit people who are long-term unemployed. It provides cash payments to employers – €7,500 for recruits unemployed for more than 12 but less than 24 months; and €10,000 for recruits unemployed for more than 24 months
Another call on the Government made by the INOU was to “Fully support unemployed people seeking to address their unemployment through self-employment.” Unfortunately, no new announcements were made on this issue, even though self-employment can be an important access point to the labour market for people who are otherwise excluded from employment.
Another welcome development amongst the cost of living measures was an additional lump sum payment of €500 for people receiving the Working Family Payment (WFP). The WFP is a weekly tax free payment available to employees with children at work on low pay. The WFP threshold will also be increased by €40 per week for every family size.
After many years of asking in our pre-budget submissions for an increase in the top up payment on employment programmes like Community Employment and TUS, the Government finally announced that it will be increased by €5 to €27.50 per week. Given the cost of going to and participating in work, it is really important that this increase is not a once-off, in particular to ensure that the work people do through these programmes is properly recognised.
The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports community organisations to deliver local social, economic and environmental services. It aims to tackle disadvantage by providing a co-funding contribution towards the cost of employing a manager and full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. In Budget 2023 the Government announced an increase in funding of €3.5 million: bringing the budget line for this programme to over €52 million in 2023.
The budget line for the Social Inclusion and Community Activity Programme (SICAP) will increase by €1.3 million or 3% to €44 million in 2023. SICAP supports communities and individuals to engage with relevant stakeholders in identifying and addressing social exclusion and inequality, developing the capacity of local community groups and creating more sustainable communities. The programme also supports disadvantaged individuals to improve the quality of their lives through the provision of lifelong learning and labour market supports issues.
Another key ask for the INOU was the provision of good guidance and sign posting within and across the system so that people of working age will know where they can go to get the most appropriate supports. Unfortunately, there were no new announcements on supporting unemployed people and vulnerable workers to navigate a changing labour market; and where they should go to get the most appropriate advice and guidance to manage this change.
The INOU’s full post budget analysis is (linked here).