SVP says that the cost of living package will help people get through this winter but next year people on low incomes will be pulled further into poverty due to inadequate social welfare increases and a failure to increase or expand the Fuel Allowance to families on the Working Family Payment.
Responding to Budget 2023, SVP says that spreading the resources available too thin and providing primarily once-off supports leaves those in poverty very vulnerable to further hardship as the cost of living continues to rise.
Dr. Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice said; “The cost of living measures such as the one-off Fuel Allowance payment and double social welfare payment will help low-income households during what will be a very difficult winter, but they are only temporary. The increases in core social welfare rates do not cover the rise in the cost of living. This means a real-term cut to welfare for those already living below the poverty line. Increasing social welfare rates by €20 would have provided better support for individuals and families trying to get by on a very low income and helped prevent the damage caused by poverty in the longer term. The failure to address the impact of inflation on low-income households beyond short-term measures puts many people at risk of being pulled further into the kind of grinding daily hardship that is very difficult to escape. We regret that social welfare increases are not taking effect immediately after the Budge,." she said.
The charity says not increasing the weekly Fuel Allowance will mean the payment falls far short of what is required and the organisation is disappointed the payment wasn’t extended to households on the Working Family Payment.
“The decision not to extend the Fuel Allowance to those in receipt of the Working Family Payment is very disappointing. This is a targeted measure that would have benefited just over 50,000 low-income families and protected them over the winter months from going without adequate heat and light,” said Dr. Keilthy.
SVP said the extra temporary payments for carers and people with disabilities will provide much needed support but regret that the Government has not committed to introducing an ongoing weekly cost of disability payment.
With over 200,000 children living in enforced deprivation and 70% of calls to SVP coming from households with children, child poverty is a pressing issue of concern for the organisation.
SVP says the increase in the thresholds for the Working Family Payment is welcome. It says the increased investment in childcare will benefit many families but is concerned that the increased investment won’t reach the most disadvantaged children. They are also very disappointed that we have heard nothing on action to expand a child benefit type payment to children in Direct Provision.
Overall, the social welfare increases for younger and older children don’t go far enough and will make it difficult for Government in reaching their own anti-poverty targets next year.
“Growing up in poverty is associated with worse outcomes across almost all key aspects of a child’s life. Children were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis. We needed a budget that would deliver for these children but the increase in the Qualified Child rates is wholly inadequate, and will mean children in poverty going without basics more regularly,” said Dr. Keilthy.
In it’s pre budget submission, SVP had called for €12 increase for children over 12 and €7 increase for children under 12.
The charity says the double child benefit payment is poorly targeted and instead Government should have investment additional supports to the poorest children through the Qualified Child Payment.
In regard to education, the Society says the increase in support provided under the SUSI scheme this year is positive but is concerned that longer term it won’t be enough to address the real cost of attending third level education which has increased by 25% since 2011. It also regrets that no action has been taken to expand access to SUSI to those studying part-time - a measure that would have really benefited lone parents and people with disabilities.
SVP warmly welcomes the steps taken to address school costs. Budget 2023 is announced just as SVP reported taking up to 30 calls per hour in August from parents worried about back to school costs.
Rose McGowan, SVP National President said “For many families fees, uniforms, transport, books and digital tools are a source of constant stress. The decision to provide free school books to all children in primary school is very positive and is something we have campaigned on for many years. This will take the pressure off parents and help level the playing field for disadvantaged children. We hope this can be in extended to students in secondary school next year. We are concerned that without a sufficient increase in the capitation grant for schools the practice of parent contributions will not end. Nonetheless, we hope the measures announced today can be built upon in future Budgets so the State to provide genuinely free primary and secondary education to all children.”
On housing, SVP says the best way to ensure stability and security for individuals and families is to increase the supply of social and affordable homes and wants Housing for All to deliver on it’s commitments. However, it says the overall budget allocation for homeless prevention is inadequate.
"Our experience shows that one of the biggest drivers of poverty among families today is housing costs. Parents want and need a place to call home, which is affordable and secure so that they can create a stable routine and environment for their children. Ensuring people can meet their housing costs and stay in their homes in the first place is one of the most important thing the Government can do to prevent the trauma of homelessness. The new rent relief for tenants is welcome but unfortunately it will not go far enough as the Budget is weak on prevention and tenancy sustainment measures,” says Ms McGowan.
SVP will provide a more detailed analysis in the coming days when the full breakdown of measures and expenditure is provided.