• Largest ever annual allocation to the Department of Social Protection
  • Budget provides increases to vulnerable people with the greatest need
  • Resources focused on pensioners, carers, people with disabilities, families and jobseekers
  • Pension Age to remain at age 66
  • Carers Support Grant increased by €150 next year to €1,850
  • Increase in qualified child payment for almost 420,000 children dependent on social welfare
  • Over 375,000 to benefit from increased fuel allowance
  • 2020 Christmas Bonus extended to PUP and Jobseeker recipients with 15month requirement reduced to 4months as an exceptional measure

In her first budget, as Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys has secured an overall package of over €25bn for social welfare measures in 2021 that focuses on the unprecedented economic circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Measures that will be introduced next year include increases in the rate of payment for a qualified child dependant, in the fuel allowance and in the living alone allowance.

The Carer’s Support Grant will be increased to its highest ever rate of €1850 while the Widowed Parents Grant will be increased to €8,000.

Minister Humphreys commented:

Much of the increased spending for my Department will be required to meet the ongoing costs of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and increased unemployment payments in 2021.

The extraordinary times we are living in and the hugely increased spending on unemployment supports means it simply has not been possible to bring in across the board increases in social welfare payments this year.

I am pleased however even in difficult times to have been able to secure almost €300million for a series of targeted measures that will protect some of the most vulnerable groups in our society.

 These include increases to the living alone allowance, qualified child payments and the fuel allowance. The increases in these payments alone relate to over 375,000 adults and 420,000 children across a range of schemes.

I recognise that many self-employed currently on PUP are trying to get back to work but are worried that it won’t be viable for them to do so.  I want to give certainty to those workers in sectors like our taxi industry and our arts and entertainment sectors and so they will now be able to earn up to €480 per month and retain their pandemic unemployment payment.

Minister Humphreys continued:

“I am also announcing today that the pension age will not increase to 67 from next January as committed in the Programme for Government. I would encourage all people who are turning 66 in early 2021 to apply now for their pension in the usual way.

“I am also today announcing an increase in the Widowed Parents Grant. This grant is an important support to help parents with young children after the death of their partner.

“This is the first time this grant has been increased in over 12 years and it is recognition of the hugely difficult and traumatic experience faced by any parent who is left alone looking after young children following the death of a loved one.

“In addition the Islands Allowance has been increased to €20 – the first increase to this payment since it was introduced over 20 years ago. This is a small gesture to support our islanders in recognition of the unique and intrinsic role they play in our country’s identity and heritage.

Welcoming the Budget package, Joe O’Brien, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities at the Department of Rural and Community Development said:

Today is the day that the Carbon Tax became an anti-poverty tool. One third of carbon tax revenues will go towards boosting the incomes of poorest in our society while ensuring that they are left better off by increases in tax.  The ESRI identified three key payments for us to channel carbon tax revenues towards the Qualified Child payment, Living Alone Allowance and the Fuel Allowance and that’s a big part of the reason why you are seeing significant increases in those payments today.  This will help us to ensure a socially Just Transition to a low carbon economy and society as committed to in the Programme for Government.

“I am particularly pleased that the Christmas Bonus is being paid to so many people this year, including those on Community Employment schemes.  These schemes play a valuable role in the development of our communities and in supporting social inclusion.

Living Alone Allowance

Minister Humphreys is increasing this allowance from January next by €5 to €19 per week for older people, widows, widowers and people with disabilities. Over 210,000 people will benefit from this increase. This is an additional investment of over €54 million a year in supporting those who are living alone.

Fuel Allowance

In comparison with other years and in recognition of the need to protect vulnerable people and to suppress Covid-19 the Minister recognises that people have had to remain in their homes for longer than they normally would have done. The Minister is therefore increasing the weekly Fuel Allowance rate by €3.50 from January next to €28 per week. Over 375,000 people will benefit from this increase.

Pension Age

The Minister formally announces that the State pension age will not increase to 67 years from January as originally planned and that legislation will be introduced later this year to reverse the rise in pension age that is currently included in social welfare legislation.

Carer’s Support Grant

Over 130,000 carers will benefit from the €150 increase in the grant, which is paid in June each year. This is the highest rate at which it will have been paid since the introduction of the grant.

Qualified Child Increase

The Minister acknowledges the research of the Vincentian Partnership, which shows that the cost of raising children, particularly older children, is a significant factor in determining income need. Consequently, the weekly payment for a qualified child aged 12 or over will increase from €40 to €45, while the payment for a child aged under 12 will increase from €36 to €38. These changes represent increases for over 419,000 children in households, which are dependent on social welfare and will take effect from January 2021.

Working Family Payment

In recognition of the need to continue to support low-income working families, the Minister is increasing the income thresholds by €10 per week for families with up to 3 children.

One Parent Family Payment

In order to ensure that parents raising children on their own can earn more than €425 per week and retain their payment, the Minister is removing the earnings limit. This will be effective from April 2021.

Disability Allowance

The Minister is increasing the earnings disregard on Disability Allowance from €120 per week to €140 per week with effect from June 2021. This will improve the incentive, where appropriate for people in receipt of Disability Allowance to take up work and remain in employment.

Employability Service

The Minister is extending the training support grant of €1,000 to jobseekers who avail of the Employability Service. This payment will help support access to the workplace.

Widowed or Surviving Civil Partner Grant

This grant greatly assists widows, widowers and surviving civil partners with children following the death of their partner. Therefore, the Minister is increasing this grant from €6,000 to €8,000.

Parent’s Benefit

The Minister is announcing that payment of Parent’s Benefit, which amounts to €245 per week will be increased from 2 weeks to 5 weeks from April and that it will apply in relation to all children born since November 2019. This payment is available to both parents.

Illness Benefit

The Minister is reducing the waiting period to three days so that people can be paid from their fourth day of illness. This will reduce the financial strain and allow people to take time off work when they are ill without the loss of income currently experienced. Please note there are currently no waiting days applied to applications for Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit.

Pandemic Unemployment Payment

The Minister recognises the risk that recipients of PUP who were self-employed face in restarting their business. In order to reduce the risk of moving from the certainty of the PUP payment to the uncertainty of trading income, the Minister is enabling self-employed people on PUP, including those who work in the arts/entertainment industry, taxi drivers and others, to recommence work and earn up to €480 per month, while retaining their full PUP entitlement.

In addition, the Minister is making the Part-Time Job Incentive scheme available to self-employed people who come off PUP or a jobseeker’s payment. This scheme allows a person to receive a partial jobseeker’s payment, while retaining employment income. This may be particularly suited in circumstances where a self-employed person’s income exceeds the €480 per month income threshold on PUP.

Christmas Bonus

The Minister is announcing that the 2020 Christmas Bonus will be paid this year at a rate of 100%. This bonus payment recognises the needs of people who are long-term financially dependent on their social welfare payment for all or most of their income.

However, in light of the exceptional circumstances arising from the pandemic and on a once off basis, this year, the bonus will be paid to certain PUP and Jobseeker recipients who are currently in receipt of these payments and have been for at least 4 months.

A full list of today’s measures can be found in the Budget Factsheet at www.gov.ie/deasp

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