Figures presented to me by the Department of Finance show that 36,000 families in Waterford rely on the Social Welfare Christmas bonus. This payment is used to cover extra expenses which occur at this costly time of year and will result in parents turning to money lenders, inevitably compounding existing family money problems and forcing them into further catastrophic debt in the New Year.
This scrooge-like move will deny a lot of children a Christmas. The fact that the Government can seek to cut money from those on just €204 a week while seeking to protect those on over €200,000 a year is reprehensible.
This cut will also see huge pressure being put on parents who have lost their jobs and are living from hand to mouth. This will drive many into the hands of money lenders – both legal and illegal and will have serious repercussions and will send families spiraling into whirlwinds of debt.
This will also cause hardship for those pensioners already struggling to make ends meet. Last year many older people used the bonus to pay for fuel, rather than buy Christmas presents for their grandchildren or to meet their other festive costs. The bonus helped older people get through one of the coldest winters in recent years.
As well as the hardship it will mean for those directly affected, the axing of the Christmas Bonus makes no economic sense. It will result in millions of euros being taken out of local economies putting jobs at further risk. Over €8million will be lost in the local economy in Waterford. This will hurt Waterford retailers already struggling to stay afloat.
Many of the people who will be affected by the removal of the Christmas bonus are as yet not aware of the fact. The people affected don’t have savings to cope with this unexpected reduction in their income – unlike the golden circle that this government panders to; the people affected by this cut don’t have nest eggs tucked away or overseas bank accounts that they can turn to.
We in Sinn Féin have been running a campaign against the withdrawal of the Christmas Bonus over the past number of weeks and have highlighted outside the local social welfare office how this callous move will affect the most vulnerable.
Mary Hanafin on one hand blames striking public sector workers for delays in making payments while on the other hand it is her very own colleagues in government axing completely the Christmas Bonus.
This is a cruel cut which will deny children a Christmas and will mean extra hardship for struggling families. It must be reversed. Sinn Féin in Waterford will step up its campaign over the coming weeks and will do all we can to force the Government to reverse this mean-spirited and counter-productive policy