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Jump in emergency welfare payments reflects what's happening on the ground for families, says SVP

Sinn Féin’s Social Protection, Claire Kerrane says people should be able to apply for the payment online, rather than by post or in person.

Members of the public should have easy access to their community social welfare officers, says TD Claire Kerrane.
Members of the public should have easy access to their community social welfare officers, says TD Claire Kerrane.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE SIGNIFICANT RISE in applications for the additional needs payment reflects what is being seen on the ground, the St Vincent De Paul (SVP) has said.

The Journal reported last weekend that 17,000 applications for the emergency social welfare payment – which is used to cover basic necessities such as food, clothing, fuel and utility bills – were received in July.

In June, the department received nearly 15,000 applications while in May the number of applications received was 11,700.

There has been a jump of over 10,000 applications on April’s figures, when just 6,500 applications were received. 

The additional needs payment is a payment available to any person who cannot pay an expense from their weekly income.

A person can receive the payment even if they are not getting a social welfare payment and it is also available to a person who is working or on a low income. Those on social welfare can also avail of the payment. 

A spokesperson for SVP also told The Journal that the figures reflect what the charity has been experiencing on the ground. 

Calls to SVP are up 15% on the same time last year, according to a spokesperson, who said that in terms of our pre-budget submission, SVP would be calling for the additional needs payment to be extended. 

“The numbers are pretty much what we are seeing in terms of additional pressure on people,” said the spokesperson, who added it is particularly acute for those on low incomes. 

While traditionally SVP has been there to help people on mainly on social welfare, in the last few years more and more people who are in work are coming to the service, they said. 

“These are people that mainly run into problems when unexpected costs arise that they haven’t budgeted for, so the SVP are there to help them get over that hump,” they said. 

These could be unexpected costs related to the death of a loved one, and the funeral costs that arise, or health related costs, such as needing money for transport to get to and from the hospital for appointments, which is particularly an issue in rural areas. 

Applying online

Speaking about the month-on-month increase in the figures since April, Sinn Féin’s Social Protection, Claire Kerrane said people are increasingly reliant on emergency social welfare supports.

The significant rise in emergency payments shows they are now an important support for families and workers who are struggling with soaring costs, said Kerrane. 

Given the rising number of people seeking the emergency payment, she said there is a need for people to be able to apply for the payment on online.

Currently, anyone who wants to apply can only do so by filling out a form and sending it to their Local Community Welfare Service by post. Forms can also be filled out in the office and there is no need to make an appointment. 

“With the cost of living crisis worsening, it is crucial that these emergency payments are easily accessible and can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. People must be able to access financial assistance when they really need it.

“With this in mind, I have repeatedly called on the Minister to make applications for the payment available online, which I had understood she was looking into. I again urge her to ensure that this is put in place as quickly as possible so that emergency payments are accessible an can be processed efficiently. Many other social welfare payments can already be applied for online,” said Kerrane.

In order to be eligible for the additional needs payment, weekly income limits are set at €350 for a single person, €450 for a couple with no children and between €551 and €1,318 depending on the number of children in the household.

However, even with the criteria set out, community welfare officers can ultimately use their own discretion and decide upon a person’s circumstances.

The Sinn Féin TD said it is also important that people can access their local Community Welfare Officers “at this difficult time”.

She said drops in the number of payments under supplementary welfare schemes have been seen in the past following changes to how the public can access these officers in their local communities.

“This element of Community Welfare Services must be restored and we will continue to push the government to address this,” she added.

 

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