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Govt should introduce a universal pension: SJI

By editor - 06 July, 2013

Government should increase basic social welfare rates by €5 in Budget 2014. This is essential because the value of basic social welfare payments has fallen when measured against average weekly earnings across all employment sectors since the downturn began.  The Old Age Pension system should be replaced with a universal pension paid at the current […]

Government should increase basic social welfare rates by €5 in Budget 2014. This is essential because the value of basic social welfare payments has fallen when measured against average weekly earnings across all employment sectors since the downturn began.  The Old Age Pension system should be replaced with a universal pension paid at the current rate of the Contributory Old Age Pension.

Social welfare rates are far below what is required to provide a minimally adequate standard of living. As a first step towards rectifying this situation Government should increase the payment by a minimum of €5 per week in Budget 2014.

A €5 weekly increase would begin to bridge the gap between the welfare payment and average weekly earnings.  Those surviving on low incomes have borne the brunt of austerity so far.  Government should move to broaden the tax base in order to meet its budget deficit commitments.”

Social Justice Ireland also proposes:
* An increase of €5 per week in the PAYE tax credit.
* That tax credits be made refundable to benefit the working poor.
* A universal state pension set at the same level as the contributory state pension for all those aged over 65.  (This would be funded by standard rating the pension tax-break which currently benefits those who are better off.)

Government can achieve its fiscal targets without imposing further cuts. Social Justice Ireland has published a fully-costed Budget for 2014 showing how this can be done and how vulnerable people can be protected.

Social Justice Ireland has also made a proposal to Minister Joan Burton urging Government to create a Part-Time Job Opportunities programme along the lines of the programme piloted in the 1994-1998.  The new programme:

  • Would create 100,000 part-time jobs for unemployed people over a three-year period;
  • Paid at the going rate for the job;
  • Participants working the number of hours required to earn the equivalent of their social welfare payment and a small top-up
  • Up to a maximum of 19.5 hours a week.
  • Access on a voluntary basis only;
  • Jobs would be created in the public sector and the community and voluntary sector;
  • Participants would be remunerated principally through the reallocation of social welfare payments.
  • Working on these jobs participants would be allowed to take up other paid employment in their spare time without incurring loss of benefits and would be liable to tax in the normal way if their income was sufficient to bring them into the tax net.

Details of this proposal together with all other proposals made by Social Justice Ireland which together would protect vulnerable people and groups while meeting the Troika’s borrowing requirements may be accessed here.

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