Posts Tagged ‘rent allowance

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.

06
Jan
09

rent allowance blues

Yesterday I received a letter informing me that €5 is to be knocked off my rent allowance. Actually, in typical civil service double-speak, what is said is that my “personal contribution” is to increase by €5, which I at first thought meant I’d be getting more money. It was a brief moment confusion and pleasantness, until the penny dropped. I thought, “why on earth would they be giving…oh, I see.”

I really don’t have a problem with this. It’s quite possible to make a pretty decent living when unemployed, and while I have no wish to sound like some Thatcherite critic of the welfare state, I do understand that much of these benefits should be restricted in our recessionary times. Money should be reserved for those who need it and that really isn’t me.

What’s annoying me about the whole experience is that letter came with a fresh application form, and warning that if I don’t submit this form payment may stop. I’ve already successfully applied for this fund, and it was a very unpleasant experience. I don’t understand why I should have to go through this again. It’s forcing people to jump through hoops just to prove they can. Bastards!

24
Nov
08

Adventures in Social Welfare

I got my first rent allowance cheque in the post this morning. This was surprisingly prompt as I only submitted the necessary documentation on Thursday. I must admit a high level of satisfaction with my community welfare officer and her possibly gay assistant. They seem to genuinely want to help people and get things sorted as quickly as possible with minimal fuss (much unlike the snotty, non-phone answering, “so t’is free money you be wantin'” attitude of the social welfare office).

This being said, applying for rent allowance is not an easy experience. In fact, so awkward and painful is it that I can say I truly earned the money. The application process involves getting the relevant form signed by Dublin City Council, who in turn make you fill out their own little booklet so I can be put on the housing list (a truly arbitary exercise as I clearly have a house). This booklet must be stamped at both the tax office and the social welfare office, and of course each party requires copies of IDs and various proof of addresses. Add to this the difficulties of getting my landlord’s signature as he was on holiday and getting an additional copy of my birth cert as the orginal had gone missing (true to Murphy’s law, it has since turned up). The birth cert issue is particularly annoying as the city council, after initially insisting I provide a copy, didn’t even bother looking at it in the end.

The most heartbreaking episode, however, occurred when I did all this and brought the completed form back to my community welfare officer. When she saw that my last job was as a hack she told me of her son and how he wants to become a journalist, and how she’s trying desperately to discourage him. “I’ve got so many journalists on my books it’s not funny,” she tells me.

No, it’s not.