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Social Protection | Budget 2023 impact on economic and cost-of-living issues

To ask the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which she remains satisfied that all critical issues anticipated in Budget 2023 have been adequately dealt with notwithstanding the ongoing economic and cost-of-living issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

This Government recognises the challenges people are facing with the Cost of Living.  That is why we announced the largest social protection Budget package in the history of the State.  The Social Protection measures announced in the Budget amounted to almost €2.2 billion.

Those measures will make a real difference in terms of protecting our most vulnerable – our pensioners, carers, people with disabilities, low-income families and lone parents.

Last week, the Social Welfare Bill began its passage through the Dáil.  This will give effect to the Social Protection measures announced as part of Budget 2023.  These include a €12 increase to weekly personal rates of payment and a €40 increase in weekly income thresholds for Working Family Payment.  These changes will take effect from 1st January 2023.

To ease the pressure that many households are facing, my Department announced a range of exceptional lump sum payments and other supports, many of which have already been paid and are already supporting people in meeting the cost of living.

These measures include an Autumn Double Payment, which was paid in mid-October to over 1.4 million people, including pensioners, carers, people with disabilities, lone parents, and jobseekers.  My Department paid a total of €316 million in additional payments during this week.

This was followed by a double payment of Child Benefit on 1st November, which was paid in respect of 1.2 million children across the State. 638,000 families benefited from this double payment, at a cost of €170 million.  Child Benefit is an extremely important support that reaches hundreds of thousands of hardworking families.

Two weeks ago, my Department paid a range of cost of living supports, which included:

  • A €400 lump sum payment to over 370,000 households in receipt of Fuel Allowance;
  • A €500 lump sum payment to 44,000 families receiving the Working Family Payment;
  • A €500 Disability Support Grant to 216,000 recipients of Disability Allowance, Blind Pension and Invalidity Pension; and
  • A €200 lump sum payment to the 234,000 recipients of the Living Alone Allowance.

In total, my Department paid an additional €325 million last week in cost of living supports to over 865,000 people.

Last week, my Department paid a lump sum of €500 to over 114,500 carers, at a cost of €57.3 million.

In December, the Christmas Bonus double payment will be paid to pensioners, carers, people with disabilities, one-parent families, and other social protection recipients.  This Bonus will be paid to approximately 1.2 million people, at a cost of roughly €295 million.

The ESRI post-Budget analysis shows that Budget 2023, combined with one-off measures to reduce the cost of living, will be effective in protecting most households from rising prices this winter.

Their analysis further shows that the approach taken by the Government, of targeted welfare measures combined with universal energy credits, will be more effective at protecting most lower income households this winter than had welfare rate payments risen in line with inflation this year and next.

I am satisfied that my Department and my colleagues in Government are supporting people through this difficult period.  As was shown during the pandemic, earlier this year and in Budget 2023, my Department and this Government will remain resilient and ready to act decisively when necessary.

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