08
Apr
09

The Unemployed Budget

Like everyone else, I was paying strict attention to the telly yesterday to see how we’d be affected by the budget. This was a funny one for the unemployed, as there was the possibility that Lenihan would listen to the likes of Goodbody Stockbrokers and actually cut social welfare payments to those of us on the dole (a line elegantly countered by Fintan O’Toole in yesterday’s IT). I recall a few articles in newspapers in the last few weeks that sought to highlight the burden each individual dole recipient places on the state, which read to me like the kind of line journalists pick up from PR people who are trying to condition public opinion. I got a real sense that we were being braced for something shocking.

So, people on social welfare might be tempted to breathe a sign of relief, as on the face of it at least we seem to have gotten away with it. After the medical card blunder of last “real” budget, Brian was a lot more nervous about been seen to attack social welfare recipients. There are no major cuts in social welfare, according to the three broadsheets this morning. This of course isn’t the full story, but more on that later. The most notable cut was the abolition of the double payment at Christmas time. This has lead to witty comparisons to Ebenezer Scrooge, but frankly, I find it hard to justify a difficulty with this. I for one was not entitled to the bonus last Christmas and I don’t think I would have been this year either, and I was expected to just get on with this. Of course it’s very easy for me to say this, considering I’m a singleton who doesn’t have to worry about paying for a family Christmas. And considering the as yet undisclosed impositions that are to be place on the children’s allowance, the oncoming holidays are sure to be a difficult one for families on social welfare. To this I can only say it was always going to hurt.

Far more unforgivable, in my opinion, is the halving of dole payments for people under 20 years of age, an incentive Brian says for people to take up training. This is a basic display of ageism in that it assumes universal parental support for young people, which is not always the case. Will extra Fas and PLC places be provided for every person under 20 on the dole? I very much think not. As far as I can see, the pain this will cause does not justify the money that’s likely to be saved, which according to the Irish Independent will be €300 million.

Also unfair is the cut in rent allowance. It’s not so much the cut that’s the problem but the reasoning for it. According to Lenihan’s speech this is merely in tune with the drop in rent prices, a remark quite similar to Goodbody’s Marie Antoinette-esque belief that a cut in social welfare is justified due to a drop in inflation. This supposed that those on social welfare noticed an corresponding drop in their expenses, conveniently forgetting that the inflation drop was fuelled by a general consumer race to the bottom. For people already at the bottom there is nowhere else to go. Well, the same is true for Brian and his perception of rent prices. Suzy has gone into more detail on this here.

Apart from cuts, there was another reason unemployed people were paying attention to this budget. We wanted to see what was being done to create jobs. I’m going to leave this for people more qualified than I to discuss in detail. However, I will say it seem there was precious little announced in this regard as far as I can tell. I suppose such measures were never a consideration for this “mini” budget. Nobody of course ever believed there would be anything about this budget that could be described as “mini”. The Indo had it right today with a supplement entitled “Crisis Budget”. It was just about plugging the hole in the public finances that FF created for themselves. Creating jobs will have to wait for another day.

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