Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein targets ‘political football’ social welfare rates

Sinn Fein has proposed a new Social Welfare Commission to target the five euro increase for certain social welfare groups.

There has been speculation about the five euro supplement and who would receive it in this year’s budget (Niall Carson/PA)
There has been speculation about the five euro supplement and who would receive it in this year’s budget (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Sinn Fein has published a proposal to target an annual social welfare increase as political parties draw battle lines ahead of the upcoming budget.

The party has proposed a new Social Welfare Commission to target the five euro increase for certain social welfare groups, which it said has become a “political football”.

The “fiver for all” phenomenon has been a steady addition in the Irish budget for the last several years, seeing five euro being awarded to those on certain social welfare benefits.

Media speculation about the five euro supplement and who would receive it in this year’s budget had already begun, as parties decide on what their respective budgets will include.

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath has confirmed he will be seeking a five euro increase to the state pension during Government budget discussions.

It's wrong that people wait around for a year to see if they're going to get a fiver from the Government John Brady, Sinn Fein

Fianna Fail’s social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea also confirmed his party will be seeking the same increase.

Sinn Fein said the current mechanism for awarding the increase is a political ploy by parties to curry favour with certain voting groups, without research or targeting those most in need.

The proposal comes before the budget, due in October, and ahead of a widely predicted Irish general election some time in the new year.

Sinn Fein spokesman on social protection and employment affairs John Brady said money should be allocated based on those who need the extra funds the most, backed by research by an independent group.

“This is about providing a decent standard of living for people on social welfare,” he said.

“Year on year we see some political parties saying they want to see everyone receive a fiver, but there’s no basis for it, it’s not based on evidence from advocacy groups, Barnardos, or St Vincent de Paul for example.

“It’s wrong that people wait around for a year to see if they’re going to get a fiver from the Government.

“This would remove it from the political sphere.”

Sources close to Sinn Fein claim that the current mechanism for awarding the five euro payment favours those most likely to vote for the current government, and in turn has been seen as a “vote winner” for parties in the past.

The party has proposed the Social Welfare Commission be set up to ensure the funds are allocated among those most in need by using the  Minimum Essential Standard of Living, determined by the Vincentian Partnership of Social Justice, an annual report which examines what level of income would allow different households to live with dignity.

Sinn Fein said those figures should be examined by the commission, which would make recommendations to government on any increases to social welfare in any upcoming budget.

The proposed commission would have nine members in total, none of which should be employed by the state – four members from organisations or charities who assist vulnerable citizens, two members with expertise in economics or another relevant field, two members with understanding of the interests of some or all of the groups who would benefit, and a ninth member – a chairman, appointed by the minister.

Sinn Fein estimates the annual running cost of such a commission would be around 480,000 euro per year.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty warned last month that pensions and other social welfare increases would be threatened by a no-deal Brexit.

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph