Number of social welfare emergency payments paid falls, despite cost of living crisis – Claire Kerrane TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has today raised concerns that the number of Exceptional Needs Payments (ENPs) and Urgent Needs Payments (UNPs) paid by the Department of Social Protection have "plummeted".
This is despite the cost of living crisis and the Governments' insistence that financial support is there.
A recent PQ response received by my party colleague, Maurice Quinlivan TD, showed that as of end of April 2022, just 18,927 ENPs and UNPs had been paid by the Department of Social Protection.
This compares to 112,514 ENPs and UNPs made in 2018 and 92,198 made in 2019, both pre-Covid with 67,589 made in 2020 and over 55,000 in 2021.
Teachta Kerrane said:
“While the 2022 figures provided represent only a portion of the year so far, it is concerning that the number of approved ENPs and UNPs is so low in comparison to previous years.
“Similarly, that the spending for 2022 so far does not come close to matching the same amount for the previous two years is of real concern.
"Given the sharp increase in energy costs, it is worrying that the number of ENPs made to assist with heating and household bills has been falling year on year, with just 1,000 payments made in 2022 up to April.
“Considering the ongoing effects of the cost of living crisis, I would expect both the number of approved ENPs and UNPs applications, and the spending, to be significantly higher for this year to date.
“As well as this, the Minister and her Cabinet colleagues have been advising people who are struggling with making ends meet to seek support from their local social welfare office. This has been said repeatedly.
“That the Government are actively directing households to this fund and the numbers are as low as they are does not indicate that people are getting the support they need at this time.
“I am concerned that the recent removal of Community Welfare Officers has put support out of reach of communities, particularly for vulnerable people, including the elderly. This is also something that has been raised with me by Family Resource Centres.
“I recently raised my concerns with Minister Humphreys that a shift away from the community-focused application process for ENP and UNP would be detrimental for families and workers seeking support.
“The last thing we need is for the only emergency social welfare payment available to most families and workers to be made less accessible. We need to ensure households are supported during such a difficult time.
“The Government knows that people are struggling right now, but have made it clear they intend on deferring further action on the cost of living crisis for as long as they can.
“If the Minister and her Government colleagues are going to advise people to seek support from their local social welfare offices, then these supports should be available in the community as they were before.
"The figures speak for themselves - the current system for accessing emergency payments is not working."