Exceptional Needs Payments system needs urgent review
Labour Senator Mark Wall has today (Monday, 11th April) demanded an urgent review into how Exceptional Needs Payments (ENPs) are currently being processed and advertised. The call comes following official department figures showing payments for ENPs are down by almost 50% since 2019.
Senator Wall said:
“It’s clear that the government is failing to get to grips with this cost of living crisis. We have soaring fuel prices, massive increases in shopping bills and transport fares, yet the number of ENPs being paid is down year on year since 2019. I find it hard to believe that fewer people are in need of extra help from the state during this time of crisis.
“Answers to questions submitted by the Labour Party failed to clarify the situation. The Department is unable to provide a breakdown of the figures to understand how many people are struggling with heating payments. It beggars belief. How will the government get on top of the cost of living crisis if they are unclear as to the number of families experiencing hardship?
“In 2022, no one should have to choose between heating their home or putting food on the table, but unfortunately we know that many are having to make that decision. A review must be undertaken of the ENPs being made to formulate a strategic policy response to the cost of living crisis. We can’t keep seeing the government throw good money after bad.
“As well as a review into the ENP process, it is time that housing aid is reconsidered in light of the current inflationary context. With the rise in building costs, many people will be forced to turn to ENPs to make up the difference in the original budgeted plans versus the cost now, as limits for these grants are not enough. This is another worrying trend when we are trying to keep people in their homes.
“I would urge anyone who is struggling to make a claim through the Department of Social Protection. It’s clear that the government is running just to stand still on this issue. We all know that inflation is through the roof. More needs to be done and I join with my colleagues demanding a significant pay rise for all workers in Ireland.
“When government announced Budget 2022 last October, Labour predicted that the plans would not keep pace with the rate of inflation. Increases to social welfare payments are barely tinkering around the edges, and many of the increases announced have already been wiped out by inflation. In light of this, we need government to step up to the table on these State supports for the most vulnerable. ENPs must be reviewed so we can devise a pathway to help people while prices continue to rise exponentially.”