Over 50 Organisations to attend #PreBudgetForum
Friday, 5 July, 2019: The Minister for Employment and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D., and the Minister of State for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath T.D., are hosting the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s annual Pre-Budget Forum in Dublin Castle today. 
Representatives from over 50 community groups will be attending and participating in the Forum, which is to be moderated by Suzy Byrne, an activist and commentator who has over 25 years in the community and voluntary sectors working on equality and disability issues. 
Speaking today, Minister Doherty said:
“This Forum offers a unique opportunity for the community, voluntary and employee and employer representatives attending to present their views on what they feel should be included and prioritised in Budget 2020. It will help inform me and the officials in my Department on how we can improve the lives of those adults and children who are the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Opening the Forum, Minister Doherty emphasized the importance of input from attendees and how it had shaped previous initiatives and Budgets. Pointing to recent developments, Minister Doherty outlined that in the last two years, the Government has delivered:
·         A five euro increase in each of the last two Budgets in the primary rates of weekly social welfare payments, building on a similar increase in Budget 2017;
·         A two euro increase in all qualified child dependant weekly payments in 2018 which was the first increase in these payments since 2010. Budget 2019 increased this again by five euro twenty cent for qualified children aged 12 and over; and by two euro twenty cent for children under 12;
·         A €25 increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance for each qualifying child;
·         Additional resources for the School Meals Programme and a new Hot School Meals Pilot Programme for schools which was launched in January and will be moving to a broader pilot scheme in September;
·         The introduction of a telephone support allowance for people on low incomes who are living alone;
·         A €40 increase in the income disregard for lone parents on one-parent family payment or jobseekers transition payment;
·         Two additional weeks of fuel allowance;
·         The restoration of the Christmas Bonus to 100% and this was paid to over 1.2 million long-term social welfare recipients in December 2018 to assist people with the extra expenses incurred over the period.
The Minister also cited recently introduced important new legislation which addresses the challenges of increased casualization of work and strengthens the regulation to help improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts.
Also attending today’s Forum, Minister of State Finian McGrath T.D. said:
“I am very pleased to be attending the Department’s Pre-Budget Forum and I look forward to listening to the discussions at the workshops. Since my appointment as Minister for Disabilities my primary objective has been to improve the lives of people with disabilities in a real and practical way.  We need to strengthen our efforts to ensure that people with disabilities realise their potential by focussing on a person’s “Ability” rather than on their disability.” 
The Forum is an important annual event for the Department and is a unique opportunity for community, voluntary and trade union and business representatives to discuss and debate policy issues and present their thoughts and views on Budget 2020.
Officials from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will facilitate a number of workshops (see Editor’s Note) to allow attendees to outline their main priorities, concerns and views as work begins to frame the welfare element of Budget 2020.