Sinn Féin leader and Louth TD Gerry Adams speaking in the Dáil debate today on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill accused the government of using emigration as a policy choice; forcing even more young people to leave and of attacking the elderly and sick.
And he accused the Labour Party of embracing austerity and doing in government what it claimed it was against in opposition.
Teachta Adams said:
“Last week’s budget introduced a range of austerity cuts and tax measures that are a direct attack on low and middle income households, and which will hurt the sick, the elderly and the young.
The government is attacking citizens from the cradle to the grave as it demolishes the most basic social protections.
The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill is the cutting edge of this assault on peoples living standards. And this Dáil is given nine hours to debate it!
The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill will cut millions in income supports for young unemployed people. It will leave struggling households across this state in despair. This Bill carries huge and negative consequences for our young, our sick, our elderly, and they deserve more than a paltry few hours of discussion in the Dáil.
Many families now fearful that their son or daughter will join the airport emigration queue. The cuts to young peoples’ jobseekers allowance and supplementary welfare allowance are clearly intended to be an incentive to emigrate. In the last four years under Fianna Fáil and now under your government 300,000, mainly young people, have emigrated. That’s 1700 leaving every week or the equivalent of most small towns and villages in Louth.
It is a shameful indictment of this and of successive governments that citizens have no expectation that a young person can be born, grow up, live, work, prosper and grow old in the land of their birth. This government, like past governments is using emigration as a policy choice.
The changes to the provision of medical cards are an absolute disgrace. These are the actions of a petty, punitive and unfair government which is failing older citizens. Senior citizens, who have contributed much to this state throughout their working lives, are angry at the reduction in the over-70s medical card, the ending of the bereavement grant, the axing of the telephone allowance and the increase in prescription charges.
Minister Reilly gave a specific commitment during the general election in 2011 that he would abolish prescription charges but instead he has increased prescription charges five-fold.
In the Programme for Government, Fine Gael and Labour commit to completing and implementing the National Positive Ageing Strategy “so that older people are recognised, supported and enabled to live independent full lives… we will support older people in living in their own homes and communities for as long as they wish.”
How do these commitments stand when set against the severe cuts of your government to home help hours and services and cuts to nursing home provision, and in this budget with the scrapping of the telephone allowance; of cuts to medical cards for many over 70’s and cuts to invalidity payments for 65 year olds.
All of these will undermine the ability of older citizens to live independent lives and will force many of them out of their own homes, and will increase isolation, especially for those living in rural areas.”
Note to Editor:
The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill. It is a detailed piece of legislation which:
· Extends waiting time for illness benefit from 3 to 6 days
· Makes swingeing cuts to maternity benefit
· Cuts the adoption benefit
· Scraps the bereavement grant
· Slashes young peoples’ job seekers allowance
· Cuts young peoples’ Supplementary Welfare Allowance
· Phases out Mortgage Interest Supplement
· Gives broad discretionary powers to pension trustees
· And cuts invalidity payment level for 65 year olds