What did Budget 2019 deliver?

10 Oct 2018

 

Budget 2019 was announced by the Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe T.D. on October 9th, 2018. A key ask for the INOU was that the Government started to benchmark all social welfare rates at a level that is sufficient to lift people above the poverty line and provide them with a Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL).

The General Branch, the mechanism through which unemployed people participate in the running of the INOU, had called “on the Government to increase the Christmas Bonus to 100% of normal weekly payments for customers.” 

The INOU raised concerns that Brexit and changing nature of work, in particular digitalisation, could have a detrimental effect on people more distant from the labour market, and reduce their capacity to secure and maintain economic independence.

To that end the INOU called on the Government to resource the provision of good career and employment guidance to support unemployed people to make informed choices. In particular to ensure that individuals and communities most disadvantaged in the labour market are pro-actively provided with tailor made supports that will address their marginalisation.

Given the wide range of learning needs evident amongst the unemployed it is important that the correct supports are in place and people are supported to make the most appropriate choice for themselves, including locally based adult and community based education courses.

Of particular concern to the INOU is the inadequacy of supports to assist unemployed people to participate in education and training, some supports were cut during the crisis and others have remained unchanged for years, and this issue must be addressed.

So how does Budget 2019 compare to the INOU calls for action on the Government to:

  1. Benchmark all Social Welfare rates at a level which is sufficient to both lift people above the poverty line and provide them with a Minimum Essential Standard of Living.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue.
  2. To make progress on this issue, increase Social Welfare rates by €6.
    1. The main Social Welfare rates will be increased by €5 in March 2019, almost bringing Jobseekers payments back to 2009 levels, which is most welcome.
    2. However, this is the year when age segregation was introduced in the means tested payment Jobseeker’s Allowance, and this inequality remains.
    3. During the crisis the duration a recipient could be on the social insurance payment, Jobseeker’s Benefit was reduced from 15 months to 9, if the person had more than 5 years PRSI contribution; and from 12 months to 6 if they had less than 5 years PRSI contributions. These cuts in duration remain.
  3. Increase the Christmas Bonus to 100% of normal weekly payments for Social Welfare recipients.
    • Done and most welcome for the people who will receive it, but it should be noted that an unemployed person must be on a Jobseeker’s payment for at least 15 months to be eligible to receive it.
  4. Introduce an hours-based Social Welfare system and re-design the earnings disregard accordingly.
    • There was nothing new on this issue.
  5. Increase the top-up payment on employment programmes by €7.50 to better support participants costs of engagement.
    • Participants on employment programmes will receive the €5 increase to social welfare payments, but the top-up remains at €22.50.
  6. Increase the Income disregard for Jobseekers Allowance (JA) to €25 per day.
    • There was nothing new on this issue.
  7. Increase the Capital disregard for JA from €20,000 to €30,000 and the next €10,000 to €15,000 for the two subsequent assessments.
    • There was nothing new on this issue.
  8. Bring the capital disregard for Supplementary Welfare Allowance into line with other working age payments.
    • There was nothing new on this issue.
  9. Resource the provision of good career and employment guidance to support unemployed people to make informed choices.
    • There was nothing new on this issue, and it will be important that if Ireland’s employment / unemployment figures continue to improve that people who become and remain unemployed are given the appropriate supports to secure a decent job.
  10. Ensure that individuals and communities most disadvantaged in the labour market are pro-actively provided with tailor made supports that will address their marginalisation.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue, though the additional funding under the PEACE Programme 2014-2020 is a welcome development.
  11. Run an information campaign on the full range of Back to Work supports e.g. the Part-time Job Incentive Scheme; SWA Payment Pending Wages; Enterprise and Education Allowances; Family Dividend.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue, but the INOU will be pursuing this issue through our work with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
  12. Support people to address the initial costs of taking up employment.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue.
  13. Support people to manage the impact of unemployment on their health and well-being.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue.
  14. Support frontline staff to deliver a person-centred service with good guidance and information on the best options.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue.
  15. Incorporate a strong equality and social inclusion focus, especially for older unemployed people.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue.
  16. Plan for the employment impacts of Brexit: the job losses and gains and ensure the people affected gain access to decent employment.
    1. Under the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation there will be additional funding for the Department, its Enterprise Agencies, and regulatory bodies, to assist enterprises to diversify in global markets and in meeting the challenge of Brexit.
    2. Under the Department of Education and Skills, and as part of the Government’s strategic response to Brexit and other challenges facing the economy, a new ring-fenced funding line, the Human Capital Initiative will be established.
    3. It will be important to ensure that unemployed people and others more distant from the labour market benefit from these developments.
  17. Similarly plan for the increased digitalisation of work.
    1. Under the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment there is €87m to support the National Broadband Plan and promoting digital adoption among small businesses and citizens.
    2. Under the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection there will be technological innovations to enable the digital provision of services and information.
    3. It will be important to ensure that unemployed people and others more distant from the labour market benefit from these developments.
  18. Run an information campaign on the Working Family Payment (WFP), formerly known as the Family Income Supplement (FIS).
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue, but the INOU will be pursuing this issue through our work with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
  19. Change the criteria on WFP from 19 hours a week or 38 hours a fortnight to 15 hours a week or 60 hours a month to support people in precarious employment.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue.
  20. Automate access to WFP and streamline this access to minimise the time gap between the individual taking up employment and gaining access to this support.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue.
  21. Actively support the roll-out of the Living Wage.
    • There was nothing per se on this issue, but the Minister announced that the National Minimum Wage will increase to €9.80; the ceiling of the second USC rate band will be increased from €19,372 to €19,874 in order to ensure that the salary of a full-time worker on the minimum wage will remain outside the top rates of USC; and the weekly threshold for the higher rate of employer’s PRSI will be increased from €376 to €386 to ensure that there is no incentive to reduce working hours for a full-time minimum wage worker.
  22. Resource the provision of good advice and guidance to support unemployed people to access appropriate education and training.
    • There was nothing per se on this issue.
  23. In particular the learning needs of unemployed people whose skills levels are below QQI Level 4.
    1. There was nothing new per se on this issue.
    2. Under the Department of Education and Skills through a reformed National Training Fund there will be additional 1,200 craft and earn as you learn places; 1,100 Traineeships; 7,400 Skillnet Ireland places; 1,000 Springboard places.
    3. It will be important to ensure that unemployed people and others more distant from the labour market benefit from these developments.
  24. Support unemployed people to address the costs of participating in education and training.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue.
  25. Acknowledge and support the role of alternative and community based education in meeting the needs of unemployed people.
    • There was nothing new per se on this issue.
  26. Resource the development and maintenance of independent community based organisations and their work with people experiencing social and economic exclusion.
    1. Under the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection there will be a €2 million increase for materials funding for Community Employment Scheme.
    2. Under the work programme of the Department of Rural and Community Development they note they will provide labour market training and supports through the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme; provide support for a range of initiatives in the community and voluntary sector; consolidate RAPID and Community Facilities Scheme into the Community Enhancement Programme; and continue to support Social Enterprise under the Community Services Programme.