Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I will certainly pass the constructive suggestions and ideas that have been put forward by Deputies Crowe and Carey to the Minister. It is the case in Ireland that social protection budgets over the past number of years have prioritised the introduction of measures that have had and will continue to have a direct and positive impact on poverty in the entire country, and including those who are living in County Clare. I know the Deputies have supported this. We have increased the weekly child-related payments, including the introduction of a higher rate of payment for older children in 2019. There have been increases in the working family payment thresholds and improvements in the means-testing of payments for lone parents. We have increased the living alone allowance rate, the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance and the weekly rates of payment for all schemes in social welfare. We have expanded the hot school meals programme to include an additional 310 schools, which will cover around 60,000 children. This is very much to be welcomed. We have extended the national childcare scheme universal subsidy to all children up to the age of 15. The parent benefit has also been extended. Other recent cost-of-living measures include a fuel allowance payment of €125 paid in March 2022, with an additional payment of €100 in May 2022; and an increase of €100 in the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance. Further measures will be introduced next week in the budget. We are acutely conscious that people are struggling at the moment as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. The Government is keenly aware of this and is working very hard to make sure we can get best possible response to people in dealing with the issues that have been raised by the Clare PPN. The Deputies should be under no doubt that the contents of the report and the contributions of the Deputies today inform the work of the Department and the Government, particularly in the run-up to the budget next week.