Groups working with some of the poorest households said that while the content of the package was welcome, it did not sufficiently target those on the lowest incomes, particularly those with children.
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, which on Thursday released findings that the number of people in financial difficulty had doubled since the start of the pandemic, welcomed the one-time payment of €125 for fuel allowance recipients as “much needed relief for those entitled to it”.
Social policy officer Dr Tricia Keilthy said thousands of struggling households were not eligible for the allowance, however. “The government should have used the resources available to provide a sufficient buffer and targeted support for low-income people, especially for households with children.”
The company was seeking to increase basic social assistance rates and extend the period during which fuel allowance is paid.
Karen Kiernan, chief executive of single-parent organization One Family, described the package as “a missed opportunity”. “By giving a little back to everyone instead of targeting resources to those who need it most, the most vulnerable will continue to suffer,” she said. She pointed out that more than one in four single-parent families lived in constant poverty.
Louise Bayliss, coordinator of single parent advocacy group Spark (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids), described the package as “very brutal”, saying it gave “too little to too much and very little to those who are most in difficulty”.
She said the increase in the electricity rebate was “insignificant in the long term” while measures that would have targeted the poorest, such as an increase in qualified family allowance – paid in respect of children whose parents depend welfare and an increase in the child benefit package (€35 per month and paid to a range of welfare recipients) – reportedly “more targeted at those who really, really need help “.
Social Justice Ireland said the package ‘whilst its content is ‘welcome’, ‘would fail to reach many of the most vulnerable’.
Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst at the think tank, said: ‘At a minimum, the government should have committed to comparing basic social protection payments to 27.5% of average weekly earnings in by 2023, starting with an additional increase of €5 for basic social payments. welfare rate in 2022.
Sam Moynihan, managing director of Alone, said older people still needed a “big increase in the weekly rate of fuel allowance and for it to be paid for longer”.
The Social Democrats said the package amounted to ‘tinkering around the edges’ and ‘would do little to help those struggling to survive in the long term’.
The party echoed calls from others for an increase in basic welfare rates, an increase in fuel allowance eligibility and an increase in the minimum wage.
Ged Nash, Labor finance spokesman, said the package was “half-baked and tokenistic”.
“The government has told struggling families to expect little from their cost of living package and they have not disappointed.”
By contrast, the Green Party said the measures “would have a very real impact on people’s day-to-day spending”.