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Hanafin Warns Social Groups Economy Will Hit Budget


By Ciara O'Brien and Elaine Edwards, The Irish Times 


September 19, 2008




The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, has said the Government will consider input from advocacy groups when forumulating the next Budget, but warned economic conditions would have an impact on which proposals would be implemented.

"You are all aware that we are in a very different economic situation this year than in previous years and while it is unlikely that we can implement all of your proposals, we will certainly consider them very carefully," she said, speaking at the opening of today's pre-Budget forum in Dublin.

Ms Hanafin said it was vital that social welfare spending, expected to be more than €17 billion in 2008, is allocated to those who are most in need of support. 

“We have gone some way to achieving that aim: each week, over 1 million people receive a payment from the Department of Social and Family Affairs in respect of 1.5 million beneficiaries and almost 580,000 families receive a monthly Child Benefit payment, which is paid in respect of 1.1 million children,” she said. 

Age Action, meanwhile, called on the Government to protect the most vulnerable of pensioners from the effects of rising food and fuel prices when formulating the Budget. The advocacy group said between 1,500 and 2,000 older people die during the winter, compared to summer, due mainly to cold-related problems.

"For pensioners struggling to survive on fixed incomes, and especially those living alone on low incomes, a 55 per cent rise in the price of home heating oil or 27 per cent in the price of milk pose a major challenge," said Age Action's head of advocacy and communications Eamon Timmins.

He appealed to Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin to increase the means-tested fuel allowance from €18 to €30 and to extend the 30-week period over which it is normally paid.

Age Action is also calling for an increase in the Living Alone allowance from €7.70 to €15.40, a €22 increase in the State (non-contributory) pension and a pro-rata increase in the contributory pension of €23.15.

It said this would be in line with the commitment in the programme for government to bring the State pension to €300 by 2012.

Some 30 organisations have been invited to the pre-Budget forum. They include Curam, One Family, the Children's Rights Alliance, Threshold, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Cori, the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, Pavee Point, the Forum of People with Disabilities, Barnardos, Accord, the Carers' Association, Inclusion Ireland and the National Women's Council of Ireland.

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