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Fine Gael Think-In

Pension and social welfare payment rises on the cards for next month's Budget

The Social Protection Minister said ‘very difficult decisions’ around the State pension will have to be made.

TO PROTECT CITIZENS from the rising cost of living, there needs to be a return to budgets that include tax and welfare packages, according Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. 

Asked about what might be included in next month’s budget, Varadkar indicated increases in the state pension and social welfare payments are among some of areas being considered by government.

Speaking at the Fine Gael think-in in Co Meath, the Tánaiste refused to disclose any figures under consideration.

Among the measures expected to be included in Budget 2022 are a tax package for middle income earners, as well as welfare and pension packages.

Varadkar said there will also be financial aid packages for businesses, particularly sectors that have not yet fully reopened.

“I’m not going to mention any numbers because I’d imagine both Heather [Humphreys, the Social Protection Minister] and Micheal [McGrath, the Public Expenditure Minister] would string me up if I did but that’s going to have to be negotiated between now and budget day.

“The reason why Fine Gael is calling for that pensions and welfare package to be in the Budget is because there hasn’t been an increase in the State pension now for a number of years, hasn’t been an increase in the basic weekly payments on welfare for a number of years and I think that was acceptable at a time when the cost of living wasn’t rising.”

The cost of living is rising now, he added, stating: “We’ve seen a return to inflation. Anyone who pulls into the petrol station, anyone who goes to the supermarket will tell you that the cost of living is rising again.” 

“As a party we’re all about protecting people’s incomes and that applies to pensioners and people on welfare too,” he added.

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys said she will focus on the vulnerable, and hopes to improve the situation for those reliant on social welfare payments. 

She also highlighted that there has been no pension increase in the last two years. 

Asked about increasing the pension age, she said she had received the report from the pensions commission last week, stating that she plans to bring it to government next week for consideration.

While she said she did not want to go into specifics of the report, she said “very difficult decisions are going to have to be made”. 

“At the end of the day what we want to do is protect the State pension so that young people who start a working life today will get the same benefits as those who retire today or tomorrow and that’s really at the heart of the decisions that we need to make.”

The current situation with Ireland’s State pension is not sustainable, she said.

It was reported over the weekend that Varadkar would oppose suggested hikes in PRSI on self-employed people which would help fund plans to put off increasing the State pension age to 67 until 2031.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe was asked about the possible bonus healthcare workers might expect in the upcoming budget. He said work was still ongoing on how best to “define” how the “huge efforts” of frontline workers can be recognised. 

He said he can understand how frontline workers would like to know what they can expect, but Donohoe said such detail is a matter for budget negotiations and won’t be revealed until Tuesday 12 October.

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