Dáil Éireann - Volume 454 - 13 June, 1995

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Payments Levels.

77. Mr. Moynihan asked the Minister for Social Welfare when he plans to bring current social welfare payments into line with the levels recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10639/95]

Minister for Social (Proinsias De Rossa): Increases in the real value of social welfare payments since the Commission on Social Welfare's report have meant significant progress towards the achievement of the commission's recommended rate. In 1994, all social welfare weekly rates had reached the commission's “priority” rate. This [577] year's budget improvements to social welfare payments cost £212.1 million in full year terms. This compares with £157.1 million in 1994. Within the funds available, the Government gave particular priority to child benefit — this accounted for £90.2 million of these costs.

As stated in our policy agreement A Government of Renewal the rate for disability and unemployment payments will increase towards the main rate recommended by the commission. Notwithstanding this significant progress, I have made it clear in this House that I do not regard the current rates of social welfare as adequate in any sense, even where we have reached or have almost reached the lower end of the commision's main rate recommendation. The whole area of adequate payments is in need of fundamental review.

The Government's programme for renewal gives a commitment to commission the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) to review the minimum adequate payment rates which were recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare. The study is being commisioned with a view to recommending new rates in the light of improvements in social welfare and other changes since that report was published. Discussions on this study are ongoing with a view to having the report finalised next year.

The commission recommended regular reviews of their proposed rates to ensure that they evolved in line with general economic developments. I think that this review is badly needed and it will make an important contribution to determining the path of social policy as we move towards the end of the century.