Social Welfare

Regina Doherty 'can't guarantee' pension increases in Budget 2020 because of Brexit

The Budget for 2020 will be announced in October – weeks before the UK is due to leave the EU.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL Protection Regina Doherty said that she can’t guarantee any social welfare payment increases in next year’s Budget due to the uncertainty around Brexit.

The deadline for the UK to leave the EU is 31 October; the Budget for next year is announced on Tuesday 8 October this year.

Speaking to reporters at Dublin Castle, Minister Doherty said that she couldn’t guarantee that pensions would increase in the next Budget, and said that this was because she couldn’t guarantee the outcome of Brexit.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe released two scenarios in the Budget; one for if there was a Brexit deal with the EU, and one for if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, it could mean that there are increased tariffs for imports and exports, and that this would damage the Irish economy substantially due to Ireland’s close trading relationship with the UK.

Responding to comments she made earlier on Newstalk Breakfast, Doherty said that it was only “imprudent” to increase pensions by €9 in the context of this year’s Budget.

“I think it would be wrong of me to tell Age Action [that we have] absolutely no problem with [a €9 increase to pensions].

…What they want to specifically target are the people living on pensions who are in single-income households, so to have a look at fuel poverty, to have a look at food poverty, to have a look at how somebody who is in a single-income household, can have the same costs as somebody in a dual-income household.

“Indexing against an agreed target I think is a good thing, but I also think that doing specific targeted measures to address people who are living in consistent and persistent poverty, or at least at risk of poverty, is far more beneficial when you only have so much money to spend. 

“If we keep doing [it by giving a] fiver across the board [to] everybody – first of all it kind of diminishes in the value but secondly it doesn’t actually hit the people who really need the attention from the State the most. 

“There’s 120,000 children who are living in consistent poverty, they don’t get helped by a fiver across the board, they get helped by targeted increases in the Qualified Child Payment. They get helped by school meals programmes and school books in their school.”

That’s how you target money to have the maximum impact in my humble opinion when you haven’t got billions of euros to spend.  

Doherty said that there would be a “social welfare package” in the next Budget, but added: “I won’t be making promises to anybody.”

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