Social welfare increases in Clare begin this week with many recipients getting an extra €5 according to Minister for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen.

The Clare Minister of State with responsibility for small business said that while the increases are modest, this is a step in the right direction. Minister Breen also pointed out that the Government is also focusing on improving life for the self-employed as these are the people with the potential to create jobs in towns and villages throughout Clare.

“In Clare approximately 76,894 social welfare payments are paid out, benefitting people and families right across the county. As promised in Budget 2017, the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar is introducing €5 increases to all payments, starting this week. While it’s a modest increase, it’s a step in the right direction. For a lot of people it will be the first increase they have had in 8 years,” said Minister Breen.

This week approximately 14,691 pensioners in Clare will receive the €5 increase. 6,114 of job seekers in Clare will also benefit this week, through increases to both Job Seekers Benefit and Job Seekers Allowance. Next week approximately 8,018 carers and people with disabilities in Clare will start to receive the increase. Other groups that will benefit from the increase next week include lone parents, widows and widowers, those in receipt of the blind pension, amongst others.

Minister Breen commented, “We are also continuing to focus on improving life for self-employed people. Many people who were used to a PAYE job in the past, moved towards self-employment during or after the recession. We want to encourage and support those in self-employment. They are the people with the potential to create further employment in towns and villages throughout Clare. We have already extended paternity benefit to the self-employed and restored benefits including the invalidity pension, which they can access without a means test if they become sick or injured and can no longer work as a result.”

“Minister Varadkar also recently announced changes to the qualification period for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) to make it much easier for many one parent families, people with disabilities and farmers to participate. This scheme is designed to encourage people who are unemployed or claiming welfare to set up their own business and continue receiving State income supports for two years, while getting advice and support for running a new business,” said the Clare minister of state.

“The Government is focused on equality of opportunity for all and we want to ensure that everyone who can work, is encouraged to do so. It is great to see that the unemployment rate is now down to 6.6% from a high of 15.1% during the economic crash. However we are also using the fruits of our economic progress to benefit those who need it most, including those in receipt of social protection payments, starting this week.”