In our pre-budget submission we put forward a set of actions that would protect low-income households in the short term, as well as the measures required to begin to address the structural issues locking people into poverty.
With the impact of rising costs being much harsher for households on low incomes as outlined in analysis by the ESRI and Central Bank, the case is clear for targeted protections to prevent further serious hardship. The one-off targeted payments to at-risk groups such as people with a disability, working poor households and carers is welcome and will help households get through a difficult winter.
Yet, the failure to increase social welfare payments in line with inflation puts many people at risk next year of being pulled further into the kind of grinding daily hardship that is very difficult to escape. We are also very disappointed and concerned there were no targeted supports for one-parent families.
The Budget delivered on some key educational reforms that are needed to break the cycle of poverty. The free school books scheme at primary level, additional resources for the National Education Psychological Service and the changes to SUSI are very welcome and will make a big difference to the lives of people SVP is supporting.
However, by providing primarily once-off supports Budget 2023 leaves those in poverty very vulnerable to further hardship as the cost of living continues to rise.
SVP asks that were delivered or partially delivered:
- The decision to provide free schoolbooks to all children in primary school is very positive and is something we have campaigned on for many years. From September 2023, free school books and related classroom resources will be supplied to all pupils in recognised primary schools. This will take the pressure off parents and help level the playing field for disadvantaged children. We hope this will be in extended to students in secondary school next year.
- NEPS will receive funding for an additional 54 psychologists to provide services to special schools and special classes. This is very welcome and will help ensure children with additional needs can get the support they need in the school setting.
- It is welcome that the SUSI maintenance grants will increase by 14% for special rate and by 10% increase for all other rates. The income limit to qualify for 50% reduction in student contribution fees under SUSI will be increased to €62,000. This will benefit around 8,000 undergraduate students. The one-off reductions in student contribution fees this year announced in Budget 2023 is welcome.
- An additional €87 million funding for retrofitting homes will help those on the lowest incomes experiencing energy poverty.
- €61 million is being allocated to schemes to tackle vacancy and promote regeneration in urban areas by addressing vacant social homes. This is very welcome and will lead to an increase in social housing stock in most sustainable communities.
SVP asks that were not delivered:
- An increase in core working age payments by €12 falls short of what is required to help individuals and families meet their essential needs and will be quickly absorbed by the increase in the cost of living. SVP had asked that working age payments be increased by €20 in this Budget and that rates are benchmarked to the cost of the Minimum Essential Standard of Living.
- Increase in supports for children in the poorest households; €2 extra per week for qualified children under 12 and over 12. Given the scale of child poverty and the higher risk for older children, these increases are wholly inadequate. SVP had sought a €12 increase for children over 12 and €7 for children under 12.
- A lump sum payment of the Fuel Allowance of €400 will be paid in November. While this one-off support is welcome, we need a permanent increase in the value of the Fuel Allowance to ensure people have the certainty and security to keep their home warms on an ongoing basis.
- The decision not to extend the Fuel Allowance to those in receipt of the Working Family Payment means those commuting to low paid work, rural communities and those living in poorly insulated privately rented accommodation will be hit particularly hard from the increase in energy prices.
- There were no improvements in income supports for adults or children in our international protection system. Asylum seekers will continue to live in very deep levels of poverty as a result.
- No increase in funding for homeless prevention and there was no support provided for those struggling with rent arrears. This Budget will provide little comfort to those struggling to keep a roof over their head.
- Housing first was not expanded to families and there was no additional funding to support the needs of children experiencing homelessness.
- As lone parents are five times more likely to experience in-work poverty, SVP are very disappointed to see little or no extra support for these families. We hoped that the Jobseekers Transition Payment would be extended until a lone parent’s youngest child finished school. But unfortunately, this has not been delivered which means a lone parent working full time on the national minimum wage will lose just over €50 per week when their youngest turns 14.
- Renters have been left out of the retrofitting plans and will continue to struggle in poorly insulated homes. We recommended that the Warmer Home Scheme be extended on a pilot basis to those in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment, conditional on the landlord providing a longer-term lease.
- There is still no support for students studying part-time, but SVP welcome the commitment by the Minister for Further and Higher Education to examine this as part of the review of the adequacy of SUSI.