Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming has dismissed the Government’s promise of an extra €100 a year payment to household benefits package recipients as little more than a PR stunt in light of the savage cuts that have been made to the electricity, gas and telephone allowances in recent years.
The promise was made as part of the Government public relations offensive following the reshuffle but no further detail has been provided to date.
Deputy Fleming commented: “Since the Government came to office they have been systematically dismantling the household benefits package. One of the first actions the new Tánaiste took in her Department in 2011 was to cut by 25% the electricity unit allowance.
“It was also Minister Burton who significantly shortened the period over which the fuel allowance was paid. In subsequent budgets she slashed the monthly telephone allowance before abolishing it all together as well as reducing further the value of electricity and gas units. The total impact of these cuts has been a loss of €367 a year for pensioners and people on disability allowance plus an additional loss of €120 for those in receipt of the fuel allowance.
“The cumulative impact from three rounds of cuts is to undermine the ability of recipients to live dignified, independent lives. Tánaiste Burton’s agenda goes against every instinct of the Irish people who have always valued the principle of social solidarity and inter-generational support. I simply have no faith in this Minister in relation to the household benefits package,” commented Deputy Fleming.
“The promise of a €100 contribution for those on the household benefits package to compensate for new water charges is too little too late. Yesterday the ESRI warned us that water charges are likely to rise substantially from their initial level. Any assistance with bills should be structured to protect low income families and older people from rising prices. The manner of the announcement, much like the GP card for over 70s was simply designed to generate headlines and had nothing to do with the actual need to tackle the cost of living crisis which is faced by so many people,” added Deputy Fleming.