Coalition at odds over proposed increase in unemployment benefits

The coalition is on a collision course over increasing unemployment benefits from €208 a week in the budget.

Ine Gael doesn’t believe unemployment benefits should be increased, but Fianna Fáil and the Greens support an increase in social benefits.

Fine Gael executives don’t believe the payment should be increased due to high demand for workers across multiple sectors.

The party believes that an increase in unemployment benefits will discourage unemployed people from entering the labor market.

“We would not endorse anything that would affect participation rates in the workforce,” said a senior Fine Gael source.

A Fine Gael cabinet minister said there was no point in increasing payments to jobseekers at a “time when employers are crying out for staff”.

A third senior source said no decision had yet been made on increasing unemployment benefits.

However, a senior Fianna Fáil source said the budget will increase weekly payments in line with state pension increases.

The source said a jobseeker’s pay rise will increase either in percentage or in cash with retirement.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Pippa Hackett said the Greens support “general” increases in welfare.

“It’s no secret that we support targeted measures in the budget, whether it’s welfare, qualified child support, family allowances, things like the lone living allowance – I think we’d like to see some support in general,” Ms Hackett said.

Asked about recent calls from her fellow Green Party minister, Joe O’Brien, for “double-digit” welfare increases, she said: “Personally, I’m not really interested in flying kites and publishing numbers. Every man for himself.

“I support where we stand as a party and it’s about targeting action to those who need it most. I think that’s crucial.”

Mr O’Brien previously proposed increasing the jobseeker’s allowance by €50 a week.

In its submission to the Taxation and Welfare Commission, Sinn Féin also proposed increasing unemployment benefits by nearly €50 per week. However, they have since stated that they do not want this in the upcoming budget.

Meanwhile, Social Protection Secretary Heather Humphreys has said she would have to be a squid to hold all the kites being flown in relation to her department and the household at the moment.

Asked about a proposed €15 increase in welfare across the board, Ms Humphreys said the budget would be in a couple of weeks and she would like to make the announcement, but had to check with her government colleagues first not to speculate .

“There is no point in contributing to speculation and giving people information that is not correct,” she added.

The Treasury’s tax strategy group examined the cost and impact of a €15 increase in all welfare rates – sparking speculation the government will announce it on next month’s budget day.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar insisted that the government had not promised anything before September 27, the budget date.

“A whole range of proposals have been made and none of them have actually been taken on board by the government and that will only happen in a couple of weeks,” the Fine Gael leader added.

However, Higher Education Secretary Simon Harris said college students and their parents could be lining up for a double budget increase.

He said students and their families should receive financial support for both next year’s budgetary measures and the living expenses package that will be introduced before the end of the year.

“I am very confident that if there is a package to help people with living expenses by the end of the year and a package by 2023, I want students and their parents to be part of both,” Mr Harris said at an event at Trinity College Dublin. Coalition at odds over proposed increase in unemployment benefits

Fry Electronics Team

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