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Spending cuts must not target social welfare – Ó Caoláin

4 March, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as "ominous" the reply given to him by the Taoiseach Brian Cowen today who indicated that expenditure cuts in the forthcoming Supplementary Budget may include social welfare.

Deputy Ó Caolain said:

"Today we have been presented with catastrophic unemployment figures. On the Taoiseach's own admission we may have over 450,000 out of work by the end of 2009, an unprecedented figure.

"This will mean tens of thousands more families becoming dependent on social welfare. When I asked the Taoiseach in the Dáil this morning if we would have a new Social Welfare Bill arising out of the Supplementary Budget he answered the question in the context of expenditure cuts and revenue raising.

"The Taoiseach's reply is ominous as it seems to signal that social welfare may be included in expenditure cuts.

"Already arising out of last September's Budget newly unemployed people have been penalised. They now have to have been in employment for two years before qualifying for Jobseekers Benefit, as against one year, before the Budget.

"Low-income families have also suffered disproportionately from VAT increases, health charge increases, the cut in Child Benefit for 18-year olds, and the cut-off of childcare supplement at five years of age. Newly unemployed people are facing very long delays before their claims for social welfare payments are assessed.

"Revenue must be raised through taxing those who can afford to pay, through eliminating waste in public expenditure and through job retention and job creation. We must ring-fence social expenditure to support all those who are on the threshold of poverty." ENDS

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