Fianna Fáil Social Protection spokesperson Willie O’Dea says Government claims that it’s protecting low income families have been rubbished by new figures from the Central Statistics Office. The survey on Income and Living Conditions for 2012 reveals falling income levels and rising poverty rates.
Deputy O’Dea said, “The figures released by the CSO will make for very uncomfortable reading for Ministers. Promises they made to protect core social welfare payments have been blatantly broken, these statistics are proof of that. In the Government’s second full year in office, over 756,000 people were living in poverty. The regressive budget brought in for 2012 saw 10 tax increases introduced including hikes in VAT, carbon and motor tax, on top of changes to the Universal Social Charge which affected 330,000 people, jobseekers benefit based on a five-day week, and cuts to the disability allowance for new claimants. The very people the Government had vowed to protect were being hit the hardest, and the figures published this week acts as testament to that.
“Consistent poverty was highest among the unemployed and people who are unable to work due to illness or disability. Ministers promised not to touch the most vulnerable, yet in the 2012 Budget, they decided to change Jobseekers’ benefit, basing it on a five-day week rather than the seven-day week, which had been the norm up until then. This sneaky change had a major impact on low-paid part-time workers by effectively cutting the payments they would’ve been entitled to, and plunging many of them below the poverty line. In fact, the study reveals 6% of working adults were living in poverty over the course of the 12 months.
“The Government’s decision to impose a raft of stealth taxes saw disposable income tumble by 2.5% between 2011 and 2012, standing at €17,702, while the consistent poverty rate in 2012 rose to 7.7% compared to 6.9% the previous year. These figures are only going to head in one direction following the successive regressive budgets brought in by this Government. Since 2012 Ministers have cut child benefit, changed the One Parent Family Allowance and slashed dole payments for people under 25, further adding to the pressure that already hard pressed families are under.
“Ministers need to acknowledge the effect the decisions and the measures they’ve introduced since coming into power are having on people. Rather than making false promises about protecting the most vulnerable, they should admit that their policies are flawed and hitting those on the lowest incomes and in the social protection system the hardest”.