Speaking on the Social Welfare Bill, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Equality, Senator Jerry Buttimer, said Budget 2011 discriminates against the weakest members of society who have been targeted by the Government in a bid to making savings.
“Since this Budget the cost of petrol, diesel and the carbon tax have risen. Utility bills have gone up and the cost of food has remained the same. This, on top of a 4% cut in social welfare payments and cuts to payments for carers, the disabled, widows and the blind, making it increasingly impossible for the most marginalised in society to keep their heads above water.
“There has been a severe and a savage attack on the carer, the blind person, the widow and on those who are disabled. In the past two years carers have taken a 10% cut as a result of the abolition of the Christmas bonus and this and last year’s budget cuts, despite the fact that 42,000 carers give almost 3.7 million hours of their time per week to help those in most need, saving the state millions.
“The Government’s focus has been on fixing our botched banking system at the expense of the ordinary citizens. We are now faced with a situation whereby one in three of those under 25 is unemployed, half of those unemployed are long-term unemployed; that is five times more than in 2007. Some 88% of job losses have been among those under 35 with 55% having been lost among those under 25. Above all else, that is this failed Government’s legacy.
“The most vulnerable have been denied protection from the State. Those on disability are down €847.60 a year since 2008 which is a direct attack on the living standards of the people who need the most, filling them with dread and fear. Fine Gael had a better way, a fairer way which would have protected the most vulnerable and safeguarded the interests of carers, the disabled, widows and the blind.”