Budget 2020 delivered a number of welcome targeted measures which will assist those living on the lowest incomes. However, freezing primary social welfare rates and the minimum wage means many people will be left struggling next year as the cost of living rises. Poverty rates are predicted to increase as a result. Given the scale of the housing crisis and the number of people contacting SVP for help with education costs, Budget 2020 housing and education measures lacked ambition.
SVP asks that were delivered or partially delivered:
- Lone parents working part-time can now earn €15 extra per week before their primary payment is reduced and the thresholds for the Working Family Payment were increased by €10.
- Targeted supports for children in the poorest households; €2 extra per week for qualified children under 12 and a €3 weekly increase for children over 12.
- Increase in the Living Alone Allowance (€5 per week) and Fuel Allowance (€2 for 28 weeks).
- Restoration of Jobseekers Allowance for young people who live outside the home and those aged 25 (€203).
- Additional funding to ensure the poorest families can access childcare subsidies.
- Pilot for free school books at primary level. This is welcome but just €1 million was made available. It would cost €20 million to make school books free for all primary school students.
- Partial restoration of the capitation rate for primary and secondary schools from €179 to €183 per child. However the rate was €200 in 2010.
- Increased investment in rural transport.
- Increased funding for Residential Tenancy Board.
- Social welfare increases will take affect from January and not March next year.
SVP asks that were not delivered:
- No increase in the minimum wage and primary social welfare payments. SVP advocated that social welfare rates and the minimum wage are benchmarked against the cost a Minimum Essential Standard of Living.
- Brexit social welfare contingency package of €400 million doesn’t include an allocation to protect those on the lowest incomes from increases in the cost of food and fuel.
- Increase in the Fuel Allowance will not be sufficient in protecting people from the carbon tax hike particularly those commuting to low paid work, rural communities and those living in poorly insulated privately rented accommodation.
- A target of 11,000 new social housing units is set for 2020 but with over 70,000 households on the social housing waiting list and over 10,000 people living in emergency accommodation this target is not ambitious. Additionally, the target for 2019 is not being met; just 38 per cent of projected builds were delivered in the first half of this year.
- €80 million extra was allocated to create HAP tenancies which means further reliance on the private rented sector to meet housing need. Since 2015, the State has spent €600m on HAP.
- No provision for a national affordable rental scheme.
- Housing assistance and rent supplement limits remain the same which means the gap between the limits and market rents will widen next year.
- Lack of landlord incentives and obligations to improve the standard of accommodation in the private rented sector.
- SUSI inadequacy ignored.
- Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance thresholds were not changed and Child Benefit was not extended to teenagers over the age of 18 who are still in school.
- No improvements in supports for people living in direct provision and no additional funding for frontline Department of Social Protection services.
SVP will continue to advocate for improvements in supports and services that will prevent people falling into poverty and help more people move out of poverty for good.