On Tuesday October 12th 2021, the Government published Budget 2022. In his speech Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe TD noted that “In framing this Budget, we have been conscious of the cost of living pressures that are currently confronting citizens and businesses.” While in his speech the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD said “Now we have to harness the recovery to build a better quality of life for all our people.”
In our pre-Budget submission the INOU called for a social welfare increase of €10, this increase was sought as the organisation believes it is critical that social welfare payments lift people above the poverty line and support people to meet a minimum essential standard of living. A €5 increase to €208 will come into effect from January 2022, and though it is a move in the right direction, the reality is that it will barely support people to deal with the increases in the cost of living they are facing.
In Budget 2022 the INOU called on the Government to address the age inequality in the Jobseekers Allowance payment whereby the maximum payment a young person aged 18 to 24 years receives is €112.70. Regrettably this issue was not addressed, though this payment will increase by €5 to €117.70 from January.
The Fuel Allowance was increased by a €5 per week for those who are in receipt of it, which is a welcome development given rising energy costs, though if those costs grow as projected the positive effect of an extra five euro will be short lived. The Government are also changing the income threshold for qualification for this payment from €100 to €120, but this will only come into effect in January 2022.
The INOU has long sought a change in the waiting period for people in receipt of a Jobseekers Allowance payment to be eligible for the Fuel Allowance. And finally in this Budget the Government have announced a change: the waiting period for recipients of a Jobseekers Allowance and Supplementary Welfare Allowance to be eligible for a Fuel Allowance will move from 15 months to 12 months. Unfortunately, this change will only come into effect from September 2022.
The full Christmas Bonus will be paid to people who are long-term social welfare recipients, for most payments this means people have been on a payment for at least 12 months. However, for someone on a Jobseekers Allowance payment this has meant 15 months, which refers back to a time when Jobseekers Benefit could last for up to 15 months, a situation that was drastically changed in the financial crisis. On this occasion the INOU understands that the minimum requirement will be 12 months and that a similar requirement will apply to people in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
The INOU had sought for these changes to the duration of Jobseeker Benefit payment to be addressed, the current maximum duration is 9 months for people who become unemployed and have at least five years PRSI contributions made. If people do not make the transition to the means tested payment Jobseekers Allowance they can find themselves outside of the system of supports and programmes to assist people who are long-term unemployment back into a decent job.
At present we are working on our analysis of the Budget, comparing it with what we called on the Government to do and what is in Budget 2022, it will be available shortly on our website.