The Department of Social Protection DSP is what runs both the OAPension and the various schemes for allocating different amount of money to different categories of people who #without' but are not yet eligible for the pension. There is a bewildering array of schemes: Job Seeker's Allowance is not the same as Job Seeker's Benefit. You get different money either side of your 25th birthday. You can get a medical card to defray the costs of your medical expenses if you qualify under any one of a number of arcane rules. You may apply for Rent Supplement or Back to Education Allowance or a Carer's Allowance if your mum is real sick. It goes on and ever more specific and confusing and the Department employs a lot of people to make sure nobody gets an allowance to which they are not entitled. Needless to say, nobody is employed to make sure poor Joe Public gets his full whack. The 2017 budget allocation for DSP is just shy of €20,000,000,000 or about 37% of the total government spend. This dwarfs all the other departments, even the bottomless pit of Health which only clocks at €14bn = 26%. And I get a whack out of cost item #3 Education €9bn = 16%. These, the Big Three, take 4/5th of all the money to spend.
As an aside, you need to know how many of us are crowded into our Fair Republic. Here are the figures from the 2011 census. The total population has increased by about 0.2 million over the last 6 years but I'm guessing the proportions are the same.
|0 - 14 years||979,590|
|15 - 24 years||580,250|
|25 - 44 years||1,450,140|
|45 - 64 years||1,042,879|
|65 years +||535,393|
A radical idea has been in the air in the run up to Christmas, to streamline the desperately complex, and inherently unfair system of Entitlements. One proposal is to give every adult of working age €150 tax-free as of right whether you work, or care for your demented father, or write poetry, or run a soup kitchen or sit on your sofa watching box-sets and drinking tinnies until the cash runs out. On €150/week you can just about pay your share of the rent, and not starve. If you want to go to a concert, or a session in the boozer, or fly to Prague for the weekend then you have to get off your arse and find some work. For those of us on [just barely, me] €50K/yr, €150 isn't very much: €150 x 52 = €7,800 a year. Multiply that by 3.3 million adults and you get €26 billion which is within a shout of what is allocated currently to the Department of Social Protection DSP. Here's the polemic and the costing for a model of Universal Basic Income UBI put forward by a group of Marxists called Social Justice Ireland. SJI's model a bit more complex than €150 each because they recognise that old people's expenses are greater mostly because of the meds and zimmer frames that keep them alive forever . . . so they get more: you cannot make the grey vote unhappy and expect to win an election.
There is much to like about this
- Sacking all the Jobsworths at the DSP, so they can no longer tsk tsk at the inability of the dispossessed to manage their bennies. From their comfortable chair in a warm office, counting the time until they cash in for a generous pension, they will become redundant to see if they can do something positive for the economy or their fellow citizens.
- My poor students can complete their assignments on time and turn up to 9 o'clock lectures because they no longer need to work 4 nights a week or all weekend to pay the rent.
- My poetic daughter - yes I have one - can freeze in a garret holding her pen with fingerless gloves. She may be cold but at least she's not starving and can afford to buy a pot of ink each week.
- My pal can look after his disabled mother without having to fill in forms in triplicate and prove that his mother is still alive at the end of each month.
It is interesting that some of the most media-friendly proponents of UBI are Catholic priests [who have no time for black Protestants or their devilish Work Ethic?] who are harking back to the radical doctrines of Liberation Theology from the end of the last century. We've met Fr Peter McVerry before; the other one to check out on the airwaves is Fr Sean Healy. Not everyone agrees with the ethos or the economics of this solution for dealing with poverty. But we're going to hell in a bucket with the current business model, so let's toss up some new ideas and see if any stick to the ceiling.