The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) says that while there are some welcome aspects to Budget 2023, the one-off measures won’t stem a rise in poverty.
SVP said that the cost of living package will help people get through this winter, however next year people on low incomes will be “pulled further into poverty due to inadequate social welfare increases and a failure to increase or expand the Fuel Allowance to families on the Working Family Payment”.
Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice said the cost of living measures such as the one-off Fuel Allowance payment and double social welfare payment will help low-income households during what will be a very difficult winter, but they are only temporary. The increases in core social welfare rates do not cover the rise in the cost of living. This means a real-term cut to welfare for those already living below the poverty line.
“The failure to address the impact of inflation on low-income households beyond short-term measures puts many people at risk of being pulled further into the kind of grinding daily hardship that is very difficult to escape,” she said.
Dr Keilthy continued: “The decision not to extend the Fuel Allowance to those in receipt of the Working Family Payment is very disappointing. This is a targeted measure that would have benefited just over 50,000 low-income families and protected them over the winter months from going without adequate heat and light.”
Welcoming the extra temporary payments for carers and people with disabilities, SVP nonetheless regrets that the Government did not introduce an ongoing weekly cost of disability payment.
With 70% of calls to SVP coming from households with children, child poverty is a pressing issue for the organisation.
SVP said the increase in the thresholds for the Working Family Payment was welcome, as is the increased investment in childcare will benefit many families. However, it is concerned that the increased investment won’t reach the most disadvantaged children.
The charity says the double child benefit payment is poorly targeted.
On education, SVP said the increase in support under the SUSI scheme is positive, but it won’t be enough to address the real cost of attending third-level education. Since 2011, that cost has risen by 25%. It still wants access to SUSI granted to those studying part-time.
SVP welcomed steps taken to address school costs. It received up to 30 calls per hour in August from parents worried about school costs.
Rose McGowan, SVP’s national president said: “For many families fees, uniforms, transport, books and digital tools are a source of constant stress. The decision to provide free school books to all children in primary school is very positive and is something we have campaigned on for many years.”
On housing, SVP says the best way to ensure stability and security for individuals and families is to increase the supply of social and affordable homes and it wants Housing for All to deliver on its commitments. However, it says the overall budget allocation for homeless prevention is inadequate.
St Vincent de Paul – Pre-Budget Submission
The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) cited a weekly gap of €49 between core social welfare rates and the cost of a minimum standard of living, and pointed out that some 200,000 children are now living in deprivation.
Dr Keilthy said: “Investment in essential services like housing, childcare and education must go hand in hand with a social protection system that is strong enough to keep people out of poverty while out of work, living with an illness or disability, caring for a loved one, on low pay or in retirement.”