By Helen Redwood
“THERE’S NO way of preparing for Christmas, that bonus is actually Christmas”. This reaction from one single parent spells out what the Scrooge-like scrapping of the Christmas bonus will mean for the 1.3 million people previously eligible.
Minister Lenihan’s “justification” that prices are falling won’t compensate for a time of year when everything goes up – prices, fuel bills, pressure to buy presents, costs of travelling to relatives.
And who are these faceless one in three of the population? – Pensioners, long-term unemployed, disabled people, carers, FÁS trainees, registered blind people, and so the sorry list goes on.
Neither is this a temporary measure. Minister Hanafin has already stated that it’s “unlikely” to return in 2011 and throws in the “sweetner” that at least this cut has saved a cut in the overall dole rate! Given that spending power is being reduced, so deepening the recession, then it’s pretty clear that the cut in Christmas bonus is just the thin end of the wedge of further cuts to the dole down the line.
Scrambling to let their developer and speculator friends off the hook, the Fianna Fáil/Green government aims to save a measly €156 million this year and €171 million next from this bonus – a fraction of the €90 billion of public money robbed to cover their friends’ bank debts.
If Christmas has been difficult for people living on welfare benefits, then the raft of other benefit cuts will make it a miserable time! For example, most under-20s would still be living at home and handing up some of their dole to help out. Now the government is seizing half the weekly benefit of under-20s to “incentivise” them onto training schemes – how about seizing some of the big debtors’ income to incentivise them into paying up their debts?
The increase in income levy to 6% for the super-rich is meaningless and not much of a cut in comparison to losing a week’s money to those surviving on €204 a week.