The Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys, TD, hosted the Department’s annual Pre-Budget Forum in Farmleigh House today.
This Forum offers a unique opportunity for community and voluntary groups, trade union and business representatives to discuss and debate policy issues and present their thoughts and views on the upcoming Budget.
Minister Humphreys was joined by Joe O’Brien TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities, and Damien English TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Employer Services.
Representatives from a broad range of organisations and community groups attended the Forum. The event was moderated by Gráinne McElwain, broadcaster.
Speaking at the Forum, Minister Humphreys acknowledged how the input from attendees at the annual Pre-Budget Forum has helped her and her officials prioritise previous Budget initiatives.
The Forum provided for five thematic workshops which gave stakeholders the opportunity to discuss and debate their individual positions in a structured way.
Addressing the Forum, Minister Humphreys said:
“This pre-Budget forum is about listeningto the stakeholders and organisations who are the coalface when it comes to working with families, the elderly, young people and our vulnerable citizens.
“The views and ideas of the attendees will be of particular value to me as I work with Government colleagues to deliver a fair Social Welfare package in the Budget.
“I’m deeply conscious that Budget 2023 will be delivered against the backdrop of significant cost of living challenges.
“That’s why the pre-Budget forum this year was an important opportunity for me as Minister to listen to proposals from such a wide range of groups across society.”
Some of the proposals made by a number of groups represented at the Forum today included measures calling for:
- A general increase of all Core Social Welfare Rates, including Pensions, Working Age and Disability related payments, by up to €20 per week.
- Extending the Fuel Allowance Season by 4 weeks and increasing the rate by €15 per week to support households with increasing energy costs.
- Increasing the Living Alone Allowance by up to €20 per week to target those living alone, who are at a higher risk of poverty.
- Further supporting households with an increase in the Household Benefits package by €5 per week.
Together, these four proposals would cost an additional €2 billion in a full year.
Minister Humphreys told the Forum that the big challenge for Government will be how to balance these calls for improvements with how best to apply finite resources especially when faced with significant challenges in other areas, including Housing, Health and Education.
Also speaking at the Forum, Minister O’Brien said:
“As Minister of State with responsibility for social inclusion, I have a strong interest in addressing all types of poverty. I am acutely aware that many people in this country are struggling now given the increase in the cost of living. I realise that poverty is multi-dimensional. Food poverty, in particular, is a complex issue. That’s why last year I established the Working Group on Food Poverty in response to one of the commitments under the Roadmap for Social Inclusion.
“The decisions made during the annual budgetary process have a major impact on people’s lives. Therefore, it is important, especially with the increased cost of living, that we consider how to target welfare increases to ensure that those who are most vulnerable receive the supports they need.
“Acknowledging that virtually everyone has felt impact of the cost of living crisis, I also think there is a significant section of middle Ireland that would support a cost of living budget that offers particular relief to those most in need - those in poverty.”
Minister English commented:
“The last two and a half years have thrown up many challenges for our people, society and the Irish economy. Government acted swiftly to respond to these challenges with measures such as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employment Wage Subsidy Schemes which helped to protect people and their jobs from the worst impacts of the pandemic. This year we have seen a return to economic and employment growth with over 2.5 million people now at work, an increase of over 158,000 from the same quarter last year.
“It is great also to see our community and voluntary groups back up and running throughout the country. They are reaching out, engaging and connecting with the people living in their communities. Today’s Forum provides a valuable opportunity for Ministers and officials to engage directly with our key stakeholders, to listen of their first-hand experiences, and better understand their needs ahead of the upcoming Budget.”
Note for Editor
Pictures sent separately by Maxwell Photography.
List of Organisations represented at Pre-Budget 2023 Forum:
Active Retirement Ireland
Alliance of Age Sector NGOs
Age Action Ireland
Age and Opportunity
Alzheimer Society of Ireland
American Chamber of Commerce Ireland
As I Am
ATD Fourth World Ireland
Care Alliance Ireland
Children's Rights Alliance
Congress Centres Network
Disabled Artists and Disabled Academics
Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI)
European Anti-Poverty Network
Family Carers Ireland
Home and Community Care Ireland
Independent Living Movement Ireland
Irish Cancer Society
Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association
Irish Council for Social Housing
Irish Farmers’ Association
Irish Hospice Foundation (rep. Alliance of Age Sector NGO's)
Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU)
Irish Refugee Council
Irish Rural Link
Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament (see Alliance of Age Sector NGOs)
Irish Wheelchair Association
Mental Health Reform
National Association of Widows in Ireland
National Council for the Blind in Ireland
National Federation of Pensioners' Associations
National Youth Council of Ireland
Neurology Support Centre
One Parent Family Alliance
Retired Workers Committee (ICTU)
Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (S.E.A.I)
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Social Justice Ireland
SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids)
Teen Parents Support Programme (TREOIR)
Trustus We Care
Union of Students in Ireland
Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice