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Category: News

SVP warn of a perfect storm of problems for families as pandemic supports & protections are removed

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) says that a lack of joined up thinking on the removal of the moratorium on energy disconnections and evictions, and the winding down of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in the coming months will create a storm of problems and hardship for thousands of individuals and families.

These changes are also coming at a time when families with schoolchildren will be preparing for back-to-school purchases and increases in energy prices by many suppliers. SVP is concerned about the cumulative impact on families already struggling.

The moratorium on energy disconnections will be lifted tomorrow (1st June), and the charity has expressed its concern to the Energy Regulator about the timing of this change when so many people are still out of work and when there is limited coordination of State supports for those with utility debt.

SVP will continue to encourage people to engage early with their suppliers to prevent disconnection but says the Government need to step up in terms of financial support and suppliers need to look at debt relief and more flexible payment options for customers. 

With the blanket moratorium on evictions now ended there is a danger of an increase in homelessness, says SVP. The continuing protection in place until July applies only to those financially affected by Covid-19 and those registered with the Residential Tenancies Board. SVP says many of the households they assist do not meet these criteria and are at danger of falling through the cracks. The latest data (April 2021) from the Department of Housing shows a worrying increase in the number of families and children in emergency accommodation.

The initial response to the financial impact of the pandemic has prevented the worst shocks on households but removing supports too quickly could create a perfect storm of problems for individuals and families. We are worried that the cumulative impact will bring severe distress to thousands of people who are already struggling. With the vaccine being rolled out and an end in sight, Government should be doing all that they can to ensure the right supports are in place to help families and individuals stay afloat through the economic uncertainty that lies ahead,” said Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice.

SVP are calling on Government to:

  • Make full use of poverty proofing safeguards in the implementation of changes to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) so that claimants and their families do not suffer undue hardship. Taper supports towards those most at risk of financial hardship including low-income families with children, renters and workers in sectors that will be slower to recover from the pandemic.
  • Ensure adequate resources are available and accessible through the Exceptional Needs scheme so that low-income households with Covid-19 related energy debt are not pushed into energy poverty or additional hardship.
  • Establish an energy debt relief mechanism for households in significant energy debt because of Covid-19.
  • Establish a joint budget line between the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Housing to help those with rent arrears.

The charity welcomed assurances from the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, that there won’t be a cliff edge of pandemic income supports at the end of June. 

It is welcome there will be no cliff edge of supports and we are urging Government to poverty proof the unwinding of supports, tapering to those most at risk of financial distress” said Dr. Keilthy. 

Ultimately, however, many people will be set on a pathway to inadequate social welfare supports. The next budget is an opportunity to raise existing supports to a level that lifts people above the poverty line and allows them to meet a minimum essential standard of living” she concluded.  

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