€27 per week increase needed for core social welfare rates to protect vulnerable

Social Justice Ireland has launched its ‘Social Justice Matters: 2022 Guide to a Fairer Ireland’ which highlights the need for a €27 increase in social welfare rates.
€27 per week increase needed for core social welfare rates to protect vulnerable

THE Chief Executive of Social Justice Ireland Dr Sean Healy has called for an urgent increase to core social welfare rates following startling findings evident in its latest publication. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

THE Chief Executive of Social Justice Ireland has called for an urgent increase to core social welfare rates following startling findings evident in its latest publication.

Social Justice Ireland has launched its ‘Social Justice Matters: 2022 Guide to a Fairer Ireland’ which highlights the need for a €27 increase in social welfare rates.

Dr Seán Healy was speaking in response to the current cost of living crisis that is seeing families and individuals across the board struggling.

“€27 per week is the increase required to core social welfare rates and pensions in the next Budget if current trends are maintained," Dr Healy said. 

"This is simply to bring these payments back to where they were 15 years ago, before the bank crash. It is what is required to protect the most vulnerable as the cost of living rises."

His impassioned plea to the government coincides with Social Justice Ireland’s latest publication entitled ‘Social Justice Matters: 2022 Guide to a Fairer Ireland’.

“The rising cost of living is felt most by those in the bottom 20pc of the income distribution," he said. 

"These households spend a larger proportion of their income on food and energy. They are low-income individuals and families who have no additional disposable income, people who are already struggling to make ends meet. 

"The cost of living crisis is an income adequacy crisis. Government initiatives to tackle the cost of living crisis are welcome but deeply inadequate and not sufficiently targeted to those in greatest need.” 

Changes needed

He proposed the changes needed.

“A New Social Contract, ensuring wellbeing for all is needed. This is required to deliver the standard of living that people expect, and to comprehensively resolve the problems we have in areas such as low pay, housing, healthcare, energy, public transport, climate and childcare, all of which impact on people’s wellbeing and on their capacity to cope with inflation and its related consequences.” 

Meanwhile, Social Justice Ireland's Research and Policy Analyst, Michelle Murphy, addressed the need for inclusive social dialogue.

“A robust social dialogue structure involving all stakeholders would help Government to make progress, not only in ensuring the resources available to mitigate rising energy costs are directed at those most in need, it would also assist Government in tackling the other major issues we face, delivering housing, healthcare and other vital services to everyone, including those fleeing war,” she said. 

“It would also go a long way towards addressing persistently high levels of poverty and social exclusion while meeting our climate targets and protecting those most impacted.” 

She described what is needed to bring about real social change.

“This process will not work if it excludes certain groups such as farmers, the community and voluntary sector and environmental groups. In the absence of a real social dialogue at national level, the strongest can fight their corner in the open market or in the political realm, while the weakest will be left behind. In such a scenario inequality, already at unacceptable levels, will continue to grow and the integrated development that is required to address the challenges in housing, healthcare and meeting our climate targets will not be achieved.” 

Proposals

Some of Social Justice Ireland policy proposals include the following:

• The addressing of persistently high poverty levels and social exclusion: adopt targets aimed at reducing poverty among particular vulnerable groups such as children, lone parents, jobless households, and those in social rented housing.

• Addressing the labour market challenge of the ‘working poor’: adopt policies to address the working poor issue including a reform of the taxation system to make the two main income tax credits refundable.

• Delivering affordable and appropriate accommodation: set a target of 20 pc of all housing stock to be social housing and achieve this through directly building more social housing and decentralising responsibility for social housing to Local Authorities.

• Delivering the transformation of the health service in line with Sláintecare: ensure that structural and systematic reform of the health system reflects key principles aimed at achieving high performance, person-centered quality of care and value for money in the health service.

• Achieving our educational goals: make the improvement of educational outcomes for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and disadvantaged communities a policy priority, with additional resources focused on addressing the persistence of educational disadvantage.

• Meeting our climate targets in a fair way: develop a comprehensive mitigation and transition programme to support communities and people in the transition to a low carbon society.

• Supporting rural Ireland in the climate and digital transitions: invest in the regions and ensuring the necessary social, infrastructural and human capital supports are in place to manage any upheaval.

• Develop a sustainable taxation system that can fund our social infrastructure: Move towards increasing the total tax-take so that sufficient revenue is collected to provide redistribution and public services at average-European levels.

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