On Monday, the Irish Government announced that it was cutting food stamp benefit by 2 per cent for everyone on food stamps for the first time in the history of the welfare system.
This will hit some 8.6 million people, according to the latest estimate from the Department of Agriculture.
The Government said the cuts would hit the poorest hardest, and it said people who are eligible for food stamp are now eligible for benefits for the last time.
“The Government is committed to making sure that people who need assistance have the resources to go on food banks, that people on food support do not have to resort to the black market, and that people receiving benefits do not lose out,” said the Government’s chief human resources officer, Paul McDonagh.
In the coming weeks, there will be a reduction in the number of food stamp recipients, as the Government works through the rollout of the new benefit, according a statement from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Frances Fitzgerald.
She said the increase in food stamp applications will also be “a gradual process”, but it is expected that the cut in benefit levels will begin in the next fortnight or so.
A number of other benefits will also have a significant reduction, including: a reduction of up to €1,000 in the value of a job offer from €50,000 to €15,000, the €3,000 that people can receive from jobseekers’ allowance, and the €300 a week that people may receive in benefits if they are employed.
Other benefits will be cut for people who have been in employment for three years or more, and for those with no children.
This applies to people on social security, people on unemployment benefits, those who have received disability support payments, and people who were granted temporary protection orders.
Under the new rules, people will receive a further reduction in benefits of up on a percentage basis.
However, those on jobseeker’s allowance will also receive an increase, which will be calculated as the difference between the income earned by the individual and the amount of their weekly benefit payment.
Those on income support payments will also see an increase.
The new rules mean that those on unemployment benefit and people on jobseekers allowance will receive the same benefit for two years.
People on income assistance will receive an even bigger benefit cut, with the maximum benefit for people on income benefit at €11,400.
For the people on employment support allowance, the new guidelines mean that the amount they can receive in weekly benefit payments is reduced by an additional €3.
Some of those affected will also benefit from a further increase in the maximum amount they are entitled to receive in income support.
These are: people on the self-employed, those in paid work, and those who receive benefits from the State.