Improve Welfare


A strong social safety net is vital to prevent poverty and social exclusion. It must provide security in old age and with the onset of disability or other difficult life events. The best designed welfare systems also ensure that there are good incentives and opportunities to progress out of unemployment or into education or training.

The social safety net in Ireland has been significantly eroded in recent years with cut-backs in the basic rates of social welfare payments by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, and cuts in secondary benefits by Fine Gael and Labour. Some groups, such as lone parents and the young unemployed have been particularly badly affected. Meanwhile long-standing issues such as the cost of disability, older people living alone, and direct provision remain to be adequately addressed.

If we truly want to achieve a recovery for all, then we believe the priorities of the next Government should be as follows:

1.ELIMINATE POVERTY TRAPS BY:

  • Progressing to a Living Wage and improving job protection and conditions for part-time and casual workers. (see section of Fair Employment for more details);
  • Funding more affordable childcare (see childcare section for more details);
  • Reforming Rent Supplement so that the barrier to full-time employment is completely eradicated;
  • Providing far better information to jobseekers – particularly around part-time and casual work options and benefit retention, and by streamlining the application system so that casual workers can return to payment quickly when their casual work is exhausted;
  • Exploring how better access to Family Income Supplement for the self-employed could be provided;
  • Restoring genuine rehabilitative work option while retaining a benefit for long-term recipients of a disability payment;
  • Giving greater discretion to decision makers and encouraging far greater feedback from frontline services when genuine anomalies in the social protection system are discovered;
  • Restoring tapering arrangement for Lone Parents.

2. MAKE ACTIVATION ABOUT THE PERSON RATHER THAN JUST COST-CUTTING BY:

  • Improving jobseeker/case officer ratios and ending private sector involvement in job activation programmes;
  • Linking case interventions with needs of the workforce and interests of the jobseeker;
  • Improving further education, training and apprenticeships options, and offering better basic literacy and job-hunting skills;
  • Providing more one-to-one sessions;
  • Scrapping JobBridge, as it has led to the exploitation of unemployed people, and introducing a new internship programme that offers genuine and career-advancing work experience;
  • Guaranteeing subsidised childcare for lone parents.

3. INCREASE ALL SOCIAL WELFARE AND PENSION RATES IN LINE WITH COST OF LIVING INCREASES WITH EXTRA COMMITMENTS TO:

  • Improve tapering arrangements for Lone Parents;
  • Improve Living Alone Allowance above the CPI rate;
  • Improve the rate for jobseekers who are under 25 above the CPI rate;
  • Improve Rent Supplement and HAP rates as a short-term measure to reduce homelessness;
  • Introduce a Cost of Disability Payment;
  • Scrap the habitual residency condition for Carers payments.

4. END DIRECT PROVISION:

  • Ireland’s system of direct provision was only ever intended to be a short-term solution, but has become a national disgrace. We can and should do more to make a timely decision on a person’s asylum status, particularly in light of the pressing Syrian, Somali and Afghani refugee crisis. A clear short to medium term goal of the Social Democrats would be to end Direct Provision.

5. NEW ANTI-POVERTY STRATEGY:

  • The current anti-poverty strategy has been completely ignored by Fine Gael and Labour. Child Poverty has doubled since 2008 while poverty rates for Lone Parents remain particularly high. Within 6 months we would develop a New Anti-Poverty Strategy, with clear targets, timeframes and lines of responsibility, and with families as a key focus (see Child Poverty section for more initiatives in this area);
  • All Budgets would be properly poverty-proofed and set against the targets set down by the new anti-poverty strategy.

6. BETTER ADMINISTRATION

  • Hire more medical officers so that the time it takes to decide on applications and appeals can be reduced. Reducing appeal times saves the state money;
  • Explore the possibility of a unitary means-test across all Government schemes to cut down on form-filling and administration costs.