Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Working Family Payment Data
50. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of civil and public servants, respectively, in receipt of the working family payment; the number of payments made and estimated amounts paid in 2017 and to date in 2018; and the number of payments made in respect of members of the Defence Forces in 2017 and to date in 2018. [49208/18]
Significant concern has been expressed about the number of civil and public servants who must resort to relying on the working family payment. Does the Minister agree that this is a significant indication of the inadequacy of the current wage levels and structures?
The working family payment, WFP, is an in-work support which provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings who have children. The WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low-paid workers with children to offer them a financial incentive to take up employment.
Our latest figures, which are from the end of November 2018, show the WFP was in payment to 3,239 civil and public servants, although the information available to the Department does not allow a distinction between the two groups. Some 86 members of the Defence Forces were in receipt of WFP at the end of November. In total, the WFP was in payment to 53,384 employees at the end of November 2018, supporting more than 120,000 children, and expenditure on the scheme to that date was €380 million. The estimated total expenditure for 2018 is €411 million.
At the end of 2017, the WFP was made to 57,745 employees and expenditure for 2017 was an estimated €415 million, which was almost the same as for 2018. At the end of last year, some 104 Defence Forces employees were in receipt of WFP. The number is, therefore, reducing. The number of Defence Forces families in receipt of the WFP at the end of December 2017 was 104, whereas some 86 Defence Forces families were in receipt of the WFP at the end of November 2018.
That 3,239 civil and public servants had to resort to this payment indicates the inadequacy of their current wage levels and structures. Thankfully, the payment is available to them. The Minister mentioned expenditure of more than €400 million for the whole cohort of people who rely on the payment, but how much of that is devoted to the civil and public servants who must rely on it?
On the 86 members of the Defence Forces to whom the Minister referred, she will be aware of the significant campaign against the abysmal level of pay for the Defence Forces. The pay is insulting to those who give their lives and put themselves on the line to protect their country, doing excellent work abroad. If not for the overseas payment they receive, Defence Forces families would often fall below the poverty line. This is an important issue. The Minister said only 86 members of the Defence Forces have applied but, as has been made clear to me and other Deputies, a larger number than that qualify for it. While the low number of applications is some relief, it cannot disguise the fact that members of the Defence Forces, with whom I am very familiar, have suffered a great deal both through pay and allowances, which is why they must resort to this payment. In that context, how much has the Minister provided for these payments for 2019? Is she satisfied that the number of applications will continue to reduce?
I am not sure that more than 86 families applied. Although I may have given the impression that other people applied for but did not receive the payment, that was not what I intended to say. Rather, my point was that some 86 members of the Defence Forces were in receipt of the payment at the end of November.
The rates of pay in any public sector occupation are not set by reference to the size of the employee's family, whereas the working family payment is a scheme specifically designed to help people with their families, especially those with larger families. It is not the case that every job at every level is designed to provide sufficient remuneration to sustain larger families, even though it potentially should be. If it was, labour costs, not least for public services, might become prohibitive.
I do not have the exact number for the fund for 2019 but I expect it to be higher than this year given that we introduced extra disregards and changes in the budget. I will revert to the Deputy later with the exact figure for what is in the Estimates for 2019.
I take the Minister's point. It is great to have a family payment because, as the eldest of ten children, I remember there was no safety net like this and, therefore, I welcome it.
Is it not indicative that if people cannot rear a family on their level of wages, they will have no chance of securing or paying a mortgage or anything else? It is a circular argument and it must be recognised that, as the economy improves, the pay and conditions of public and civil servants, particularly the Defence Forces and their allowances, will have to be addressed in any forthcoming negotiation and review of payments?
I agree with the Deputy that in a world where any man or woman goes out to work, he or she should be able to earn enough to sustain a family. My point, which may have been made clumsily, was that when we sit down for negotiations with the public sector, we do not decide what a nurse should be paid if he or she has two, four or ten children. The salary is the salary, which is why it is more important we have payments with added disregards such as the working family payment.
The payment, which was established by the former Fianna Fáil Government and then modified in the past number of years, is definitely a worthwhile support. We wish we did not need it and that everyone went to work as much as necessary to provide for himself or herself. Until that day of utopia, however, the working family payment is important in all its guises.
Sula mbogaimid ar aghaidh go dtí an cheist eile ón Teachta O'Dea, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh na daltaí atá anseo ó Phobalscoil Chloich Chionnaola i nDún na nGall i in éineacht lena múinteoirí. Tá súil agam go mbainfidh siad sult agus sásamh as bhur dturas anseo go Baile Átha Cliath, agus go háirithe anseo go dtí Dáil Éireann. Tá fáilte rompu.