Social Welfare & Pensions Bill 2012

29th May, 2012

The main piece of legislation before the Dail this week was the Social Welfare Bill. This Bill gives legal effect to the changes announced prior to Christmas in the Budget. During the course of the debate, I took the opportunity to highlight my views on some of the main pillars of the legislation. I particularly focused on changes made to payments available to lone parents and their children. There has been much comment in recent weeks about these changes. I have met many groups and individuals across Dublin who are worried about the consequences of these changes. I fully appreciate that given the difficulties many in receipt of the lone parent payment face. However, there are issues surrounding the accessibility of this payment. The vast bulk of people in receipt meet the criteria and qualifying conditions, but there are those who receive payment that do not. This is not fair on those who need it and those paying for it.

Minister Burton’s proposed changes, I believe, will rectify this situation. Before concluding my comments, I also touched upon three other matters relating to direct benefit schemes and increased powers for Social Welfare Inspectors regarding payment of Rent Supplement and the need for greater link up with local authorities charged with inspecting the quality of those properties.

Finally, I emphasised the need for work to be done on providing social welfare assistance to people who were formerly self-employed. We must consider, in my view, overhauling the PRSI system in order to allow former self-employed people to access higher welfare payments than are available at present and to help them meet their needs.