Ceann Comhairle, I am delighted to get an opportunity to speak in this debate and to highlight the attack by the Minister on the weak and the vulnerable despite her protestations to the contrary.
She claims she protected ‘primary rates’ of welfare. Instead, she has slashed and burned all round her to devastating effect.
Minister, a rose by any other name is still a rose and a cut by any other name is still a cut.
How big have the cuts been? Each year she tells how she held off the big bad wolf single-handedly and reduced the cut-back. However this was more an accountancy sleight of hand and an illusion as many people have found out.
The headline cut she announced in each of the last three years was €475m, €390m and €290. However these were only the so called current year savings as some of the cuts came in during the calendar year. It is when you examine the full year saving you see the magnitude of the cutbacks. The first year they were €811m, the second year €452m and this year they did not give us the figure. This is a minimum cutback of €513 per annum not the figures you try to sell to the public.
The public are wise to what you are at as virtually every sector has suffered the pain of your knife:
– You cut the Child Benefit for all children by €10 with a special extra attack on larger families with more than 4 children
– You cut the Back to Education Allowance from €305 to €200 and from €200 to €100 and abolished it for children from two to four
– You cut the maximum maternity grant this year from €262/week to €230/week
– You reduced the age of the youngest child for the One Parent Family Allowance from 14 years to 7
– You have increased the rent supplement minimum contribution twice to a minimum now of €40/week
– This year you have abolished the Mortgage Interest Supplement
– You changed the means testing rules for farm assist so that all farm income is now assessed 100% against the payment which is extraordinary for a Minister who is always preaching about the need to encourage enterprise. This has cost many families up to €100/week
You then started on the old people:
– You cut the fuel allowance from 32 weeks to 26 weeks a cut of €120 per annum
– You cut the Electricity Allowance from 2,400 units irrespective of cost to 1,800 and since then have changed it to a cash allowance so that its value decreases as the price of energy rises.
– You have abolished in total the free telephone rental worth over €20/month
– You reduced dramatically the pensions for those, mainly women, who took years away from work for caring or child rearing work
– You cut the Respite Grant by €325 from €1700 to €1375
– And finally if you could not get them alive you literally followed them to the grave and abolished the bereavement grant of €850
Young and unemployed:
– You cut the Back to Education Allowance, CE Schemes, Rural Social Schemes
– And of course this year you reduced the Job Seekers payments for young people of age 22, 23 and 24 from €188 to €100 and for a 25 year old to €144
And finally you had to attack the job creators by abolishing in total the redundancy rebate of 60%.
Minister you might not have reduced the primary rates of social welfare but you have cut virtually everybody, children, families, young people the sick and the old. As I said at the beginning: “Cuts are cuts no matter how you dress them up”.