Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West Éamon Ó Cuív has revealed that funding for a once-off emergency payment from the Department of Social Protection has been halved under this Government. In response to a question from Deputy Ó Cuív, Minister Joan Burton confirmed that €31.3m was allocated to cover the Exceptional Needs Payment in 2014, down from €62.9m in 2011.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented, “This raid on hardship funding nails the lie that this Government is committed to helping people who face serious hardship. The Exceptional Needs Payment provides money for once-off unforeseen expenditure, which cannot be covered by their weekly or monthly income. This payment provides an important safety net for the most vulnerable in our society and has always been an integral part of the discretionary social welfare system, until now.
“Since taking office, Minister Joan Burton has hollowed out this crucial scheme. Over €30m has been raided from the budget for the Exceptional Needs Payment, more than halving the money available for unexpected expenditure. These drastic cuts, which affect low income earners the most, are indicative of this Government’s attitude to the poorest section of society. It is a Government of Spin.
“Minister Burton regularly claims that she has not cut social welfare rates, but she has overseen the reduction of key payment schemes like the Mortgage Interest Supplement and the Exceptional Needs Payment. These are initiatives that were designed to assist people in emergency situations, but have all been subjected to extensive cuts under the Fine Gael-Labour coalition.
“The people in most need of assistance are seeing their benefits being chipped away or abolished altogether. The scale of these cuts is without precedent and their impact is being felt by those who need these supports the most. It is essential that adequate financing is provided for these schemes and the Government refrains from raiding the coffers of essential social protection programmes”.