BUDGET 2016: DID IT DELIVER?

14 Oct 2015

BUDGET 2016: DID IT DELIVER?

The theme of the INOU’s Pre-Budget Submission was ‘sharing in the recovery’.  In the submission the INOU urged the Government to start restoring social welfare payments for people of working age to their 2009 levels, when the maximum personal rate stood at €204.30. And in particular the INOU urged that the Government stop the age segregation currently applying to Jobseekers Allowance payments and re-establish young people’s entitlement to a full payment. It is important to remember that a Jobseekers Allowance payment is means-tested, so that we are talking about young people living in poor households.

“It is very disappointing that Budget 2016 did not address this issue,” noted John Stewart, Coordinator with the INOU. “The need for such an increase is evident in the Government’s own poverty figures,” John continued. The poverty rates for unemployed people are considerably higher than the national figures, with the at-risk-of-poverty figure for 2013 standing at 36.7% vis-à-vis a national rate of 15.2%. The Deprivation rate for unemployed people is 54.9%, while the national figure stands at 30.5%. According to the Central Statistics Office’s Household Finance and Consumption Survey 2013, unemployed households made-up 12.8% of all households but only had 3.9% of all net wealth. 

The INOU is also disappointed with the lack of action on Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payment levels, short-term measures that could make a marked difference to the lives of unemployed people and other social welfare recipients struggling to keep a roof over their head.

On the positive side the INOU welcomes the increases in the Christmas Bonus, up to 75% of the main payment, and the increase to the Fuel Allowance to €22.50. At present an unemployed person must be in receipt of a Jobseekers payment for 15 months before he / she can access these supports. This time period refers back to a time when an unemployed person could be in receipt of a Jobseekers Benefit (JB) payment for up to 15 months. However, this is no longer the case as during the crisis the maximum period a person could be in receipt of JB was cut to 9 months. This time period should be brought back to 12 months.

The €2.50 increase to the top-up payments for people participating on employment programmes is also welcome but it is really important that people participate on these programmes as a matter of choice and that every support is provided to them to progress on into a decent job.

The INOU strongly believes that access to a decent job is the response to unemployment the overwhelming majority of unemployed people seek. And to that end the increase made to Family Income Supplement is welcome. “This increase should help unemployed people with families to make the welfare to work journey,” John noted. “But it is really important that frontline services engaging with unemployed people inform them of this support so they can make informed decisions and take up emerging work opportunities,” he continued.