Anyone For Social Protection Payment Restoration?



From top: Social welfare office, Thomas Street, Dublin; Michael Taft

No one group has suffered more.

So why is no one talking about restoring the cuts to social protection?

Michael Taft writes`;

Why isn’t this on the agenda? Why are so few talking about it (one exception is Unite the Union, there are other civil society groups in this conversation, too)?

We hear a lot about repairing the social damage, paying back those who made sacrifices during the recession. So why is no one talking about restoring the cuts to social protection?

In 2010 and 2011 basic social protection payments were cut by 8 percent – from a basic rate of €204.30 to the current €188. In addition, inflation has taken its toll, so the loss in real terms is higher. But in the last two budgets taxes were cut while basic social protection payments were left untouched.

If you’re looking for people who suffered during the recession you’ll find most of them reliant upon social protection payments.


Over half of unemployed, single parents and those unable to work due to illness or disability suffer multiple deprivation experiences.

For single parents reliant on social protection payments, the figure is probably higher than 59 percent as this category would also include single parents in the workforce, many of whom would not suffer deprivation.

Yes, we must get the unemployed back into work but even by 2021, the Government expects unemployment to be 6 percent.

Yes, we must devise programmes to get many of those suffering from disability into the workforce as well but we have a long ways to go – Ireland has the lowest level of employment among this group (bar Bulgaria and Hungary).

And we need to help single parents back into the workforce (a national network of affordable childcare would help in this regard).

We must be doing all these things – but in the meantime, we shouldn’t be consigning a huge swathe of the population to poverty and deprivation.

How much would it take to reverse the costs? In January of this year, the Social Protection Minister puts some numbers on this. Based on this, it would cost close to €800 million to restore social protection payments to their nominal 2009 level (including restoring the cuts to youth Jobseekers’ Allowance).

It would cost approximately €1.2 billion to restore these payments in real terms (factoring in inflation).

If this seems like a lot, remember – this is only about restoring the 2009 status quo. It would still mean stagnation since then.

Is this affordable?

The new Government intends to spend €3.5 billion on tax cuts up to 2021. There is an additional €€2 billion tucked away under the fiscal space radar for ‘tax indexation’; that is, tax cuts.

So there is some money about if you think that trying to lift people some ways out of poverty and deprivation is important.

Yes, poverty is about more than just cash transfers. There’s work and personal skills, access to public services, education and health status. But it’s also about income.

It’s not as if this money will go down some black hole. By and large it will be returned back to the economy through higher consumer spending which means more money in the tills and cash registers of businesses throughout the country (low-income groups have low propensities to save).

If this doesn’t sound too unfeeling, people on low-incomes are demand-conduits; what goes into one pocket, goes out of the other into businesses and their workforce. This is all the more the case given that low-income groups’ consumption is less import-dense – they spend less abroad, or on new cars, champagne or other imported items than the rest of the population.

But at the end of the day, you prioritise according to your political values (economics is not science, it’s politics).

If you believe that poverty and deprivation is a stigma on society, a social obscenity, and an avoidable outcome, you will prioritise those who are having trouble making ends meet.

This includes those reliant on social protection, those on waiting lists (housing, health), the homeless, the elderly living in isolation, those mired in arrears, the child in need of special education, the carer in need of help with their disabled relative.

The list is not endless but it is substantial. We can fashion our economic (political) and social priorities in a way that helps, assists, supports.

And if we do that, we will find that we are all better off.

We are not self-aggrandising units of consumption. We live in society, participating in a dense network of social relations. When some of those relations are mired in poverty and deprivation, it degrades all of us.

So let’s start – even if it is a small start – to build a better society. Let’s start restoring social protection payments.

Michael Taft is Research Officer with Unite the Union. His column appears here every Tuesday. He is author of the political economy blog, Unite’s Notes on the Front. Follow Michael on Twitter: @notesonthefront


81 thoughts on “Anyone For Social Protection Payment Restoration?

  1. Joni2015

    Basic dole rates have increased massively above inflation since 2000 and that includes wage inflation. Curiously your analysis completely misses this. You hack.

      1. Joni2015

        I posted a full analysis ages ago. Back when I cared. I got paid €8672.97 net today so the joke is on you suckers paying stupid rents and taxes whilst getting harangued for not doing enough for the poor.

        1. mildred st. meadowlark

          Right. That’s all words and eff all facts, so forgive me if I laugh here and go back to my morning tea believing you not at all.

        2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Is that all that 3 international caps gets you? Poor really…

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            I actually feel bad for mocking you now. You are clearly a sad and worried person.

          2. Joni2015

            Sad, worried and a lot wealthier than you! So don’t feel too bad.

            Put the dole up to 400 per week. Money for everyone! Ireland can burn.

          3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Clearly money doesn’t buy you happiness.

            What is your fixation with wealth? Is that how you rate your value as a person?

          4. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            I’d say it must be. Only truly successful people can be regularly commenting on BS after all.

        3. Gock

          Clearly money, as well as being unable to buy happiness, can’t make anyone not be a coq either.

  2. joj

    big deal it was €138 in 2003 and inflation is at those levels currently. €204 was an outrageous FF budget splurge back in the madness. why restore that and make it less appealing to work min wage?

    The country is not rich again lets stop this notion, high rents are not some measure of economic success, the economy is not great still, better than the shit case it was, but stop getting ahead of ourselves

  3. Ronan

    No, I’d rather services were restored for people in need before cash payments get increased.

    Furthermore, we are still borrowing to meet daily demand, despite the arbitrary % of GDP borrowing targets.

    There should never have been USC cuts either.

    I therefore respectfully suggest that we balance the books before we think about any kind of restoration of payments.

  4. Mourinho

    A good friend has a council house (cheap rent) and draws the dole. He plays in bands for a bit of extra cash.
    I met him in town yesterday. He was on his way to buy a bottle of wine to call over to another mates house to sit out in the sun for the afternoon. Do these guys need more money? Not a chance.

    That said, there are many who do need more, and it seems impossible to design a system that doesn’t get abused. So yes, dole should be increased. We shouldn’t punish all for the sins of a few. We just need to keep figuring out ways to cut back on the abuse of the system.

    1. Gock

      So because that guy could afford a bottle of wine from an off licence to sit out on a rare sunny day, he needs no more money?

      Seems a little harsh to me.

      1. mildred st. meadowlark

        If you’re in receipt of ‘free’ money, then you have zero entitlement to any form of fun. Obviously.

        1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Don’t mention the big tellies or people LOSE THEIR MINDS!

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            I was going to say tattoos but then I see it already happened

        2. Mourinho

          I did mention that he’s a friend. I know the guy well. Wouldn’t work on batteries.

          1. mildred st. meadowlark

            I get the point you’re trying to make though. It’s a stereotype that is all-too present in our society, because we all know someone (directly or indirectly) who does it.

      2. Mourinho

        Not quite. Drinking is his regular hobby. Never seems stuck for cash.
        Never stuck for a drinking buddy either. Mostly musicians.

        While there are complaints about funding cuts for Arts, one could argue that the dole is really, also, “Arts funding”. :)

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          Maybe being perpetually unemployed has sapped him of his confidence and rendered him depressed so he drinks to medicate? The ‘Lazy bum who laughs at us saps for paying for his booze’ is bit of a myth.

          1. Anomanomanom

            You live in a dream world if you think that it s myth. It’s a minority but it’s no myth.

  5. Eric cartman

    “No one group has suffered more.”
    perpetual welfare spongers were the only group completely unaffected by recession, aside from a bit of a boost in the price of fags. But sure that just put less food on their kids plates rather than stopping smoking.

    We should have a 10 year freeze on social welfare rates (including RA/HAP) and especially child benefit. I would call for a reduction but thats too unpopular, so Im hoping inflation will take care of it.

  6. Cloud9

    But part of the problem here is that genuine hard up cases that need lots of support just get lumped in with the feckless and lazy. Trying to separate the two and target financial assistance appropriately is the tricky bit. Trying to get some people to admit there is a difference is another thing altogether.

    1. Eric cartman

      put welfare on a card that cant be used for alcohol, cigarettes, holidays, subscription TV, computer games or music equipment or taken out in cash. Problem solved.

      1. T Boone Piketty

        Agreed, I’d also like to add :

        Modified Car Parts
        Luxury sportswear

        Why are we subsidising their low-rent Instagram fantasy lifestyles I do not know.

        1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Yeah, take away their Instagram, I won’t have it!

      2. MoyestWithExcitement

        Yes, we should treat the unemployed like children we don’t trust. That’ll given them the confidence they need to go out and get a job. Definitely.

        1. T Boone Piketty

          A lot of these lads are professional urine-extractors. If you want to subsidise their lifestyle, be my guest. I don’t see why I should have to do it.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            How many of these lads are professional urine extractors? What actually data do you have? Or are you confusing your fear of poor people with objective reality?

          2. T Boone Piketty

            I can’t directly reply to your trolling – but I will say that these people have lost my trust years ago. Why should I work to pay for a lad who you can see every week leave the post office, feck the dole receipt on the ground and straight into the bookies?

            Leave your SJW outrage at the door – it’s costing you a fortune… unless that is, you’re one of *them*

          3. MoyestWithExcitement

            So no data, just a whinge about a bogeyman that doesn’t actually exist coupled with some personal abuse to distract people from the complete lack of content in your posts. Good lad. This is your, what? 30th handle on Broadsheet now? You cretin.

          4. Steve

            T Boone I get it. There are cases like this no doubt but don’t smear everyone.

            Some figures. Full employment is approx. 96%. Which we reached in about mid 2006. Now ye can argue over how we got to that, over reliance on construction sector etc. , but we did.

            That leaves about 4% of the working population unemployed, or about 90000 people (working population is about 50% of actual population 4.5m). Then you look at the 90000. How many are those who cant work, the physically incapacitated, infirm etc , but are still classified as the “working population” because they are aged between 15-74. So your number of “scroungers” is dropping even more below 90000. Take 50%, or 45000 “scroungers” nationwide. I’d say that’s on the high side.

            Unemployment is still coming down quarter on quarter and there is no argument to say it won’t get down to 4% if a fair wind blows our way for the next 5 years. Evidence that it can be done being 2006.This shows that people still want to go back to work.

            There are bad cases yes. But DSP has saved millions since 2011 on these cases. Stop making it out as if there hoards of people ripping the p^ss.

      3. Gock

        What can they buy? Just food? They might just trade that for booze and ciggies. Maybe we should put them all somewhere secure, just for their own good.
        And we should definitely make them work for the food.

    2. Eric cartman

      if these people arent layabouts then banning them from booze, fags and the bookies should have no impact on their lievelyhoods at all and they will continue to be just as happy as they are doing nothing.

      If however those of us who observe the obvious degenerate behaviour of these perpetual jobless layabouts are correct, without tattoos, tv, betting, smokes, drink, ganj etc… to keep them entertained , theyll either progress through the criminal justice system , get so bored they get a job, throw themselves off a bridge or emigrate. Of that list, the prison one is the only one that costs the state more, and itll certainly be the last resort for the ones that had a silver spoon upbringing and made the choice to be layabouts.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        So roughly how many people are spending all their dole in the pub? And out of the people doing that, how many of them have you considered are doing so because they’re severely depressed and don’t think they’re capable of getting a job? Or are poor people just wasters you can feel superior to?

  7. Fact Checker

    The basic €188 payment is very low for someone on a high wage who suffers a surprise bout of unemployment. The payment is probably not bad for someone with low skills, has not worked in a long time and has accumulated other benefits along the way (housing, medical, child-related) etc.

    Re-orienting the system so that it is more like a system of actual insurance is probably more important than tackling the basic rates. PRSI actually stands for pay-related social insurance but in many ways it is more like a regular tax and jobseekers’ payments function more to ensure that no one has an income below a certain threshold.

    The cut to the under-25 payment was entirely appropriate and should remain. They almost always have lower skills and lower needs. It also mirrors exceptions to NMW for apprenticeships, etc.

    Finally, as other posters have pointed out, benefits were increased well above inflation in the decade to 2009 and very little thought was given to the incentive effects as the labour market was so toppy.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      “The cut to the under-25 payment was entirely appropriate and should remain. They almost always have lower skills and lower needs.”

      Okey doke. Is that wild assertion based on any verifiable data?

      “very little thought was given to the incentive effects as the labour market was so toppy.”

      Again, is there any verifiable data available that shows a significant amount of people chose not to get a job because they could live on €200 a week?

      1. Fact Checker

        Question 1:
        There is a large empirical literature that shows that length and quantity of benefits has a (modest) effect on job search activity. It is not the only part of the picture of course. Activation and training options matter a lot too. One should not focus excessively on the impact of benefit rates but in the decade in question they went up mechanically every year so that unemployment benefits relative to wages and other benefits like pensions were left the same. There was very little structural reform to the system. In 2006 once your claim was valid you could sign on once a month, expect almost zero contact from DSP and get benefits by bank transfer. This was the case whether you were searching very hard for a job or not at all. Unemployment benefits are essential in any advanced society but most citizens have a problem with almost zero conditions attached to them, as was the case back then. Things are (somewhat) more stringent now.

        Question 2:
        The average 22 year old has less formal education and less children than the average 32 or 42 year old. Census data will confirm this, as will a casual mental survey of your family and friends.

      2. MoyestWithExcitement

        “There is a large empirical literature that shows that length and quantity of benefits has a (modest) effect on job search activity”

        Modest. It has a modest effect. So how modest? What is the actual effect?

        “The average 22 year old has less formal education and less children than the average 32 or 42 year old.”

        And what does that have to do with your assertion that people under the age of 25 have less needs than people over that age?

    2. DubLoony

      In some Euro counties, If you lose your job you get about 60% of your former earnings for a period of time depending on your level of insurance contributions. It tapers off the longer you are unemployed.

      Based on experiences here in the 1980’s, people who were on the dole at an early age found it extremely difficult to get off it, even during the boom. It had a long term impact on peoples lives.
      The focus is now on making sure that young adults are in training, education, apprenticeships or a job that allows for one of those 3. On paper its not fair, but for parents, they actually like it. Not that they say that out loud.

      1. Sheik Yahbouti

        Yes, I seem to remember such a scheme in operation here, fado, fado. It cushioned the ill effect of becoming suddenly jobless and tided people over while they looked for work. It was funded through something called “Pay related Social Insurance”, PRSI. Wonder what the Government does with it now.

  8. DubLoony

    “but even by 2021, the Government expects unemployment to be 6 percent.”
    Really? Its 8.4 now.
    Assuming that the building industry kicks into high gear in next 2 years, the knock on effect among trades, building suppliers, home furnishings electrical goods, garden centres, associated clerical office work etc means that rate should continue to fall.
    It would be about 4% by 2018, officially full employment.

    The focus for unemployed should be on getting people ready to take up those jobs.
    The lone parent cuts were for people with older children. the childcare argument doesn’t always stack up. Most parents are in work.

    1. 1980s Man

      “Assuming that the building industry kicks into high gear”

      Why the reliance on the building industry? It’s an entirely false plan to rely on one sector to boost others. It’s a finite game. We need a diverse range of industries and services that are economically sustainable.

      1. Andy

        Building industry is the only likely sector that may offer a reasonably high hourly wage for low skilled workers (I mean laborers not chippy’s or sparks etc).

        Only way of getting low skilled off dole is with a sizable increase in their earning potential relative to their existing benefits package.

  9. 1980s Man

    Fine Gael hate the poor they create.

    They act like bullies who terrorise a victim and then blame that victim for being weak and fearful.

    Scummiest Government we’ve ever had.

    Fianna Fail were corrupt but they didn’t hold their fellow citizens in contempt like Fine Gael do.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        She wasn’t FG but I think Joan’s smartphone comment belied the attitude of that government.

        1. DubLoony

          Maybe people should take the blinkers off and stand back to look at the whole picture of what has happened over the last 5 years.

          This state was broke. Banking payments were 1% of GDP. We still needed to borrow to pay for social services, including social welfare.

          That we still have a social welfare system is a miracle. Other countries like Spain, cut people off after 6 months. Greece has no welfare system to speak off, families are expected to take care of each other.

          1. 1980s Man

            The rich were given tax breaks during those 5 years. The rich got richer. They didn’t contribute. The very people who caused the crisis, got away it.

            And Fine Gael made sure of it.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            So because they didn’t get rid of social protection entirely, they must not “hate the poor”? I think Joan’s smartphone comments showed that she, as deputy leader of the government, showed that she was affronted by the very idea of working class people disagreeing with her plan of action and actually implied that they shouldn’t be protesting. This, in my opinion, is because they saw themselves not as servants of the people, but as monarchs. They may have decided not to take the dole away entirely, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hate poor people.

      2. 1980s Man

        Look up a range of FG councillors twitter accounts and you’ll see the type of sneering attitude I’m talking about. It’s rampant. Utter contempt.

  10. T Boone Piketty

    There seems to be an implicit calculus that if we pay scobes €188 weekly, they won’t go pillaging and generally scobing it up around our towns and cities.

    If persistent unemployed dolers don’t show any progress in jobseeking, they should be put on physical work programmes – cleaning ditches, litter pickup etc. In combination with some sort of education schemes, back to work programmes. The sense of entitlement out of some of these welfare recipients is staggering – people with €1000’s of tattoos getting aggressive with post office clerks because their “social” isn’t in yet. Those glass panels are there for a reason!

    The abuse of medical cards and illness benefits have to be clamped down upon also, I would suggest random surveillance of recipients to make sure they’re not practicing MMA while claiming for a “bad back” or whatever.

    1. 1980s Man

      “I would suggest random surveillance of recipients”

      The Revenue stake out working class housing estates in unmarked cars already.

      But they don’t go after white collar criminal tax evaders who actually cost the state far more than social welfare fraudsters. But of course people like you think white collar tax evasion is OK because it’s your friends and family who do it. You’re just a classist skobe yourself.

    2. DubLoony

      Wow. Just Wow.

      Have you ever lost a job? Ever know what its like to have your confidence destroyed and than having to listen to patronizing BS like that. Why is litter picking the only thing that seems to be good enough for people?

      What is needed for people with complex needs is a more individualized plan of action. Starting with treating people like they are humans would be a good start.

      1. T Boone Piketty

        Lost jobs, got new ones.

        Reading, it is fundamental – I wrote “if persistent dolers”. If you show that you’re trying for a job, then yes, you should be supported. What should not be supported is intergenerational unemployment, professional welfare recipients etc.

        I suggest a visit to any large dole office to view how some “humans” act towards those that are helping them. Some people have no intention of ever getting a job, they are happy with the weekly minimum wage for doing nothing.

        Regarding white collar fraudsters, yes they should be pursued, but that doesn’t meant we should continue to borrow money to pay for those who simply, god bless them, just don’t want to work. Wasting money is as bad as stealing it.

        1. Junkface

          Ireland does have a problem with career dolers, and their sense of entitlement. I’ve lived in areas of Dublin city full of this mentality, its so depressing. They barely parent their kids either, especially when they turn teenagers and start fighting, vandalizing, stealing or damaging cars. So your taxes are going towards their living, upbringing, and then when they are old enough, you will be paying for the damage they do to society. Its a lose-lose situatuion.

          1. Ronan

            Point of order.

            Vandalising cars is not the preserve of misparented working class teens. I was brought up quite strictly, went to a private school, and kicked off my share of wingmirrors.

            Drunk teens are drunk teens.

  11. 1980s Man

    Fine Gael long game is EU break up and Ireland joining in a union with Britain. They have always been closet royalists. It’s in their blood. They are the legacy of the Old English, the settlers who arrived before Cromwell’s armies. If they could reintroduce feudalism they would. But jobbridge is a step in that direction anyway.

    1. Fact Checker

      Much of the increase in the price level since 2009 has been from alcohol and cigarettes by the way.

      Ironically enough the group that Michael mentions have the highest share of consumption of these items.

  12. Anomanomanom

    Sorting out real welfare recipients and wasters is very very easy. It can be done in seconds, if your claiming benefits (which iv no problems with) everything should be linked to your pps number. Bank accounts, credit union, dependents, rent, any allowance you get everything. People will ask why should have to give that info, il tell you why, because real cases of need can be looked after first. Think of a system where your pps is checked and all your info pops up, so rather than filling in form after form to try get help for a sick child (or whatever it may be) they can instantly see income, savings, how many children you have so on so on and give you definite answers on what your eligibility is.

  13. Dash Rickwood

    Hmmm, I feel for these people, I really do, but in 2010, I lost 35% of my wage, company healthcare plan, company car and canteen facilities. I find it hard to empathise with with social welfare recipients when I can’t get a better job at the moment. I’ve spent the last 6 years working my ass off and still going 10-15 days a month with absolutely no money. That’s scary when there’s two kids in the house. Maybe I should get a job with a public transport provider?

Comments are closed.