The issue of income adequacy is a long-standing and key one for the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU), an issue that the current cost of living crisis has exacerbated. At last year’s Annual Delegate Conference, two calls were made to the Government:
- to ensure that social welfare payment increases at least match the cost-of-living increases and to introduce targeted anti-inflationary measures for those in receipt of social welfare payments, and
- to benchmark all social welfare rates at a level which is sufficient to lift people above the poverty line and provide them with a Minimum Essential Standard of Living.
Notwithstanding the supports that were announced in Budget 2023, a lot of work remains to be done before these two calls on the Government can be deemed to have been properly answered.
In the meantime, on February 21st, 2023 the Government announced “new cost-of-living measures for families, businesses and the most vulnerable”. Amongst these measures are proposals to make:
- a €200 lump sum payment to all long-term social welfare recipients in April;*
- a lump sum Child Benefit payment of €100 per child in June;
- a one-off increase of €100 in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance in July;
- Waiving State Examination fees for students sitting the Junior and Leaving Certificate this year;
- Extending the Hot School Meals programme to all DEIS primary schools from September;
- Starting preparations for the Hot School Meals programme to be extended to non-DEIS primary schools;
- Reduced charges will apply to school transport of €50 per pupil at primary level, €75 per pupil at post-primary level, with a cap per family of €125;
- Temporary reduction in VAT on Tourism and Hospitality, from 13.5% to 9%, will be extended to 31 August 2023;
- Temporary reductions in VAT on gas and electricity, from 13.5% to 9%, will be extended to 31 October 2023;
- A phased restoration of the rates of excise on petrol, diesel and marked gas oil will take place in three stages over the coming eight months by:
- 6 cent per litre of petrol, 5 cent per litre of diesel, 1 cent per litre of marked gas oil on June 1;
- 7 cent for petrol, 5 cent diesel, 1 cent for marked gas on 1 September;
- 8 cent for petrol, 6 cent for diesel, and 3 cent for market gas oil 31 October.
*The Department of Social Protection notes on their website that recipients will include the same groups who received the Christmas Bonus in 2022, including those on Jobseekers payments or Illness Benefit for over 12 months, and people in receipt of a Working Family Payment.