The pension and other social welfare payments could rise automatically in line with wages, a minister at the Department for Social Protection has said.
With the cost of living crisis high on the Government’s agenda, the department is examining how best to protect those on fixed income and Minister of State Joe O’Brien said it was time to consider automatic rises:
“There has long been a good case for benchmarking but I think the current cost-of-living situation has highlighted its potential as a protective tool for those dependent on welfare payments,” he said.
Such a move would bring Ireland into line with a number of other European countries, in Britain they have what is called a ‘triple lock’ that guarantees that the old age pension rises at the same rate as wages, inflation or 2.5% - whichever figure is higher.
Natt O'Connor from Age Action Ireland said the elderly would welcome a similar system:
“Well certainly it’s something we’ve been calling for for a long time,” he told Newstalk.
“Most countries around Europe would have indexing and benchmarking of the state pension and other welfare.
“So for example, this year the UK pension will go up by £18.70 and they do that automatically so that the pension is keeping track with the cost of living and also average with earnings so people are not being left behind in society.”
Last week the campaign group Social Justice Ireland called for core social welfare payments to be boosted by €20 a week in order to keep up with the cost of inflation. The current core social welfare payment is €208 - something the group says is no longer large enough for people to live on:
“[It’s] a big ask for €208 to cover your accommodation costs, your food, your heat, your light, your transport, your haircut, your clothes, your birthday presents, your Christmas presents,” Susanne Rogers with Social Justice Ireland told Newstalk Breakfast.
“So €20 a week just about covers the rise in inflation that we’ve seen this year.
“€17 is needed to just stand still and then the extra couple of quid would go some way to see some reduction in the extra costs that people are experiencing.
“But it would cost €17 extra just to put the same basket of goods on the table as this time last year.”
Main image: An elderly woman counts her money.