On Wednesday July 19th the Department of Social Protection held their annual Pre-Budget Forum, which the INOU attended. The following article is a summary of our Pre-Budget Submission to the Department.
At the INOU’s Annual Delegate Conference held in May, 2023, the following motion was unanimously passed: “The INOU demands that the Government benchmarks 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: such action is urgently required as the cost of living and the poverty experienced by unemployed people and others dependent on a social welfare payment continues to increase.”
In our Pre-Budget 2024 submission, under the theme of Adequate Income, we note that amongst a range of commitments in the Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, the Government says they will “Protect core weekly social welfare rates”. (p74) Given the inadequacy of social welfare payments before the current rise in the cost of living, the impact of this rise on people’s ability to make ends meet, it is absolutely imperative that the Government increase social welfare payments by at least €25 per week. Under this theme we also urge the Government to:
Facilitate earlier access to the Christmas Bonus and the Fuel Allowance for people on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Increase the Fuel Allowance by seventy-four per cent.
End the age segregation still evident in the Jobseeker’s Allowance payment.
Re-introduce a pay-related element to Jobseeker ‘s Benefit and restore its duration to pre-2008 levels.
Introduce a work-friendly Social Welfare system for Jobseekers reflective of changing work practices, based on hours worked rather than days worked.
In the meantime increase the daily earnings income disregard for JA to €25 per day for both the main claimant and qualified adult equally.
The development of an inclusive labour market and access to decent work are key issues for the INOU. Ireland’s Public Employment Service, employment, educational and social protection policies have key roles to play in making this a reality for people of working age. And under the theme of Supportive Employment Services the INOU is calling on the Government to:
Resource the provision of good career and employment guidance to support unemployed people, regardless of whether or not they are on a payment, to make informed choices.
Develop a social welfare health check that proactively informs people of available and appropriate supports and services.
Support people to address the initial costs of taking up employment, in particular the costs of travel and childcare.
Ensure that individuals and communities most disadvantaged in the labour market are pro-actively provided with tailor made supports to address their issues.
To that end provide high support wrap around services for people further distanced from the Labour Market .
Add socio-economic status as a ground in Ireland’s equality legislation.
It is really important to ensure that decent work, which is Goal 8 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, is at the heart of Ireland’s employment policies and programmes. Some people who experience discrimination in the labour market seek to address their unemployment through self-employment and an important support for them is the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA). The BTWEA runs for two years, but the INOU believes that an additional year should be introduced to support people to make the most of this option with the participant retaining 50% of their social welfare payment in the third year. It is also important that people pursuing this option can access a wide range of enterprise supports. Under the theme of Employment and Programmes we also urge the Government to:
Automate access to the Working Family Payment to minimise the time gap between the individual taking up employment and gaining access to this support.
Promote the roll-out and attainment of a MESL informed Living Wage.
Ensure that unemployed people are supported to participate in the most meaningful option for them, one that will help them to enhance their skills and employment opportunities.
Given the cost of participation on employment programmes, support participants to meet them by increasing the additional payment on these programmes by €10.
Open up access to employment programmes for unemployed people who are not in receipt of a payment, in particular those signing on for credits.
At the INOU’s Annual Delegate Conference one delegate noted the importance of training and time to let people flourish; others noted that there is a need to increase the training allowance; concerns were raised that post-Covid 19 there has been a lack of information on training courses; others identified a need for more training. There was a call for a person centred service, which starts with the person and builds suitable training, programmes, work choices, job seeking skills around them. Such an approach is particularly important for people who are isolated and more distanced from the labour market and who will need a developmental approach to flourish. Under the theme of Education and Training the INOU is calling on the Government to:
Acknowledge the cost of participation in education and training and properly support adult learners to meet these costs to facilitate their participation.
Provide good career and educational guidance to support people to access the most appropriate course.
Ensure there is good sign posting within and across the system so people of working age know where they can go to get the most appropriate supports and provision.
Properly resource learning that focuses on personal and community development and presents learners with opportunities to address issues in their own lives.
In planning for the increased digitalisation of work, ensure that unemployed people and vulnerable workers are supported to adapt and enhance their digital skills.
At the INOU’s Annual Delegate Conference the impact of the lack of accommodation and the need to build more homes was raised. At the one of the recent Regional Discussion Forum the impact of poor health, housing, lack of appropriate services on people’s ability to make whole of life decisions was discussed; alongside the cumulative impact of marginalisation, exclusion and isolation on people’s lives. Under the theme of Social Inclusion the INOU urges the Government to:
Comprehensively address the housing and transport challenges facing so many people.
Properly resource community groups in their work identifying and addressing the needs of people experiencing social and economic exclusion.
Support the community and voluntary sector, an important entry point for people more distanced from the labour market, to play its part in supporting employment, education and training opportunities.
Properly support community led social enterprises seeking to address exclusion from the labour market and improve access to affordable supports and services.
To read the INOU’s full Pre-Budget 2024Submission, An Enabling Budget, please follow this LINK