Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Social Welfare Rates

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Louth, Labour)
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1267. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to develop a programme to index social welfare rates to the minimum essential standard of living; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6581/20]

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL) is an assessment, developed by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, of the minimum needed to live and partake in the social and economic norms of everyday life for various household types.

The model produces a minimum income standard which is dependent on whether the household is, among other factors:

(i)  in a rural or urban location;

(ii) composed of a single working age person, a couple, a single- or two-parent family, a single pensioner or a pensioner couple; and

(iii) living in private rented accommodation, social housing or is an owner-occupier.

It should be noted that the MESL for welfare households assumes that households are eligible for a medical card and, as such, health and insurance costs are reduced accordingly.  While the model assumes that pensioners have the Free Travel pass and the Household Benefits package, it does not assume this for working age people.  Certain working age recipients of welfare payments do qualify for Free Travel – recipients of Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, and Carer’s Allowance, for example.

Bringing weekly working age social welfare rates in line with the MESL entails increasing the maximum personal rate to €245 and the Qualified Child Increase to €48.50 for children under 12 and €82.40 for children aged 12 and over.  There would be no proportionate increase in the current rate for Qualified Adults in order to meet the MESL.

The estimated full year cost of implementing these measures is €2.4 billion.  This costing is subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revisions of the estimated numbers of recipients.

Any change to the current process of setting social welfare rates would require Government approval and would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.  This would include taking account of stakeholder views, as well as considerations of cost, work incentives, poverty alleviation, policy alignments and the administration of any proposed system.

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