Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said that the fact that the Department of Social Protection PRSI yield is already €100m ahead of projections means that Minister Joan Burton had the financial flexibility to make fairer choices with the Social Welfare & Pensions Bill 2014.
He suggested that this could have included the restoration of the Respite Care grant, due to be paid tomorrow, to pre-Budget 2013 levels
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Minister Burton had an opportunity with this Bill to deliver the beginning of the stimulus that she realised is needed after waking up on May 24th. This is a stimulus that Sinn Féin has long argued is needed. She had an opportunity with this Bill to begin to offer some relief to those that have been hit hardest by the austerity policies she has chosen to impose. But this Bill fails to do that. It does not offer comfort to anyone.
“We are half way through the year and Minister Burton’s department’s PRSI yield is already over €100 million greater than was anticipated by Budget 2014. The Minister has scope now to put the money where her mouth is. She could use this Bill to provide some comfort to those who have been pummelled by her own austerity riddled hand.
“Tomorrow, thousands of family carers across the country will receive their Respite Care Grant and it will be short the €325 that you cruelly cut from it in Budget 2013. Minister Burton could have used this Bill to restore that €325 to over 85,000 people who are caring for a relative with a serious illness or disability and it would cost you €28 million to do so. Deputies on all sides of this house would have been queuing up to vote in support of a measure like that and she had the financial flexibility to do it.
“Or how about giving back a few of the weeks that she cut from the fuel season? She could have helped extremely low income households with the spiralling fuel bills for three more weeks of the year at a cost of about €24 million.
“The Minister could have had her pick. She has been giving media interviews, in the context of her bid for the Labour Party leadership, calling for an end to austerity. I would suggest to the Minister that actions speak louder than words. She could have, to use her own words, started to ‘exorcise the spirit of austerity’ by reversing or even partially restoring any one of the 16 cuts that she made to core social welfare payments since she took office.”