Fuel allowance threshold must be broadened
Sligo,Leitrim and south Donegal local area representative for the Labour Party, Nessa Cosgrove, has said that Budget 2022 must include social welfare increases that reflect the cost of living in Ireland today, especially when it comes to the fuel allowance threshold.
Highlighting the increased uncertainty people are facing this winter, Nessa Cosgrove said that priority must be given to the most vulnerable in society.
“This has been a hard year for all. People have experienced unprecedented uncertainty in their jobs and in their lives. Social welfare rates haven’t increased in two years, and tens of thousands of people remain out of work. Yet, the cost of living is dramatically increasing and all experts predict that this will hit energy costs dramatically. Inflation hit a three year high in August of 3% - the highest since 2008. People living on a fixed incomes and social welfare payments who rely on gas or electricity to heat their homes face a worrying winter with less spending power.
“The fuel allowance payment starts this week, but the increase from last year has already been eaten up by inflation. The energy crisis is real and people in Sligo, Leitrim and south Donegal are very concerned about the real probability of an energy blackout. We have had multiple warnings about electricity blackouts due to rising demand from data centres and two gas plants are closed for maintenance.
Gas prices have soared by 250% in Europe this year. Energy suppliers are rapidly increasing their prices in recent weeks. Lots of families in the North-West won’t be able to afford to heat their homes this winter if it keeps up.
Continuing the General Election candidate said “We all know the fuel allowance will rise again in the Budget but it is a means tested payment. Budget 2022 is an opportunity for Government to revaluate the qualifying rate for the fuel allowance and broaden it out so that no person is cold this winter. Government must also provide certainty that the increased prices in energy costs to customers will not result in disconnections that would compound matters.
“I have also had a number of pensioners across the constituency contact me about the likelihood of an increase to the pension in Budget 2022. To leave pensioners without an increase this year would fly in the face of everything the Government spoke about during the pandemic. These are among the most vulnerable, those that we asked to cocoon and miss many moments and memories throughout the past year and a half.
"In addition to this so many people are living on wages which, despite the rising rates of inflation, haven't received a pay rise or increment in years. This is particularly evident in the voluntary and community sector in the area of social care and in the Early Years, retail and hospitality"
The Labour Party spokeswoman concluded “Coming out of the pandemic, into a post-Covid Ireland, we must build back fairer. We must ensure that the most vulnerable social welfare recipients, like our pensioners, receive an increase that reflects the increased cost of living in Ireland. These people have worked hard, paid their taxes and contributed to society all their lives. The State cannot abandon them now.
“At a time of rising costs, those on fixed incomes will have to survive on less. Government cannot let this happen to the most vulnerable in our society.”
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