The Department of Social Protection produced its annual Social Impact Assessment of Budget 2016 a few weeks after the Budget was announced. The Social Impact Assessment analyses the impact of the social welfare and tax measures in Budget 2016. It also tells us about the types of households who are likely to benefit from measures such as the increase in the minimum wage and the expansion of supports for Early Childhood Care and Education.
Different analyses of Budget 2016 have produced different findings. For example, the Social Impact Assessment produced by the Department of Social Protection found that Budget 2016 will deliver the biggest gains for low income households; while the analysis by Social Justice Ireland found that the Budget will widen the gap between the richest and poorest households. Analysis by the Vincentian Partnership for Justice found that despite some welcome measures in the Budget, fewer households will be able to afford a Minimum Essential Standard of Living in 2016 because of the rising cost of living. Each of these analyses examines different aspects of Budget 2016, highlighting the importance of having a number of different and complementary sources of information.
The Social Impact Assessment produced by the Department of Social Protection is welcome. However, it is still very difficult to assess the impact that increased Government spending on public services has on different groups. We need all Government Departments to produce a Social Impact Assessment of measures which relate to their own areas so that we can see the impact of all budgetary measures across households. Ultimately this sort of analysis should be published before the Budget is announced and should include a number of the policy options which are under consideration by Government. This would allow for poverty and equality proofing of the Budget, and would increase the transparency of the budgetary process, all of which should benefit the people we assist.