Tuesday, 11 April 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
325. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his Department has carried out any analysis of the new rates of social welfare payments, with particular reference to widows, widowers or one parent families, with a view to making a determination as to the adequacy of payment to meet requirements in view of inflation rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10862/00]
326. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he proposes to offer a supplementary increase to social welfare means tested payments to offset the effects of inflation in 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10863/00]
329. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he has evaluated the adequacy of social welfare payments to meet the needs of recipients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10866/00]
While the latest published monthly CSO report on the consumer price index highlights that in the year to February 2000 inflation increased by 4.3%, the Minister for Finance in his budget statement has estimated that the annual average inflation rate for the whole of 2000 will be 3%. The recent social welfare budget package, which is the biggest ever social welfare budget allocation amounting to over £428 million. on a full year basis, provides for a £7 a week increase for pensioners over 66, including widow/er's pensioners and lone parents over 66; a special increase of £5.90 a week for invalidity pensioners aged under 65 years; and a £4 increase for other recipients under 66, including widow/er's pensioners and lone parents under 66.
The £7 increase for pensioners represents an increase ranging between 7.9% and 8.9%, while the £4 general increase represents an increase ranging between 5.2% and 5.6%. With an expected annual average inflation rate of 3% for 2000, this year's increases will be ahead of expected inflation, representing real increases ranging between 2.1% and 5.7%. As part of the process of aligning tax and social welfare changes by 2001, all of these increases are being paid four  weeks earlier this year, from the beginning of May.
The Government is committed in its action programme to providing substantial social welfare increases. Specifically, the recent review of the action programme has committed the Government to bringing forward from 2002 the target date for increasing the old age contributory pension to £100 a week and to extending the commitment to achieving this target rate to all social welfare pensions for older people by 2002. The Government is also committed to ensuring that over its term of office all old age pensions will increase in line with average industrial earnings.
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