I welcome the opportunity to continue the discussion on this Bill. In the short time I had on Thursday last, I noted that the budget is in two parts. There are two announcements on the day totalling an hour and a half, with the two Ministers explaining their different elements of the budget. We hear all that debate on the day in question, including the financial motions, and we have several votes on those proposals on budget day.
When one starts to tease out the hidden bits within the expenditure report and the budgetary measures, one starts to see the detail and the full effect of the budget and its consequences in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill and the Finance Bill, which we are debating. None of those sections can be separated from one another because they are the budget in total. Nobody can say they voted for this or that because each and every aspect of the budget is intertwined with the other. That is why it is important that when my party put forward proposals for an alternative budget, all our figures and measures were intertwined and balanced and the changes were across the board. They were not simply changes to social welfare or taxation measures but also to how Departments are funded.
The problem with this budget, as with every budget since this Government came to power and in the term of the previous Government, is that the burden remains on the most vulnerable in society. I have heard Members on the other side of the House argue that the burden on the wealthiest in our society has been increased. As a percentage that is probably true, but the disposable income of the most vulnerable in society, those who depend on social welfare, or those on low income, is greatly reduced, whereas the disposable income of the richest in our society is increased.
Those who are vulnerable cannot take additional hits in budget after budget. The more the Government goes after them, the more it affects their ability to survive and the more it affects the local economy. That is one of the arguments I had two weeks ago with the Minister for Social Protection and have had with her predecessors. The more they cut social welfare, the more they affect local business and suppliers because every last penny of social welfare is spent. It is not put into banks or put away for long holidays abroad. It is spent and returns directly to the Exchequer quite quickly through VAT and wages. The richest in our society have the ability to squirrel away money in various different ways, whether in bank accounts, shares or offshore accounts. That means it is often beyond the reach of our tax system.
Some quite high profile figures in our society, who regard themselves as Irish men and women, have moved their accounts and financial interests lock, stock and barrel offshore and pay no dividend on money raised in our society to the Irish Exchequer. That is sad to see. It is a questionable practice. We must continually consider how our taxation system can capture those who hold moneys, who claim to be Irish citizens, who work in Ireland but conveniently manage to be out of the country long enough to avoid paying tax here.
It is a pity that the low rate of corporation tax was not strengthened in this Bill to ensure it is paid or that at least a higher proportion of what should be paid is paid. We have seen reports of some big companies that have managed to avoid paying a large proportion of that tax. In some cases they pay only 4%. That is not a welcome taxation measure. It is welcome only if it is implemented as other taxation measures are implemented for the ordinary worker. What type of message goes out if large corporations and rich people in society can evade millions in tax yet the State would hound ordinary people to pay tax, including asking them to pay in advance, as the Revenue Commissioners have requested for the property tax?
The context for the budget needs to be taken into account as well because it is not intended just to balance books but to re-balance society, to address the fact that 16% of our society is at risk of poverty and that there is a continual brain drain of between 70,000 and 80,000 people emigrating every year. More and more, these are young people who have the skills and the education we will require to rebuild our society and our economy. That is one part of the context and the other is that those who are employed and have been successful in breaking the cycle are increasingly part-time, casual or contract workers. Sustainable full-time paid and permanent employment is becoming a thing of the past. It is dangerous for our society to build our economy on the casualisation of work because it is very difficult to plan future income from those casual, part-time or contractual workers.
There are 175,000 people in this country who are long-term unemployed. The budget did not introduce substantial measures to address that problem. Elsewhere today there has been a debate about the youth guarantee. The Taoiseach is debating it in Europe. That will only be a guarantee if he succeeds in substantially increasing the amount of money that Europe will deliver, and the amount this State puts in, rather than reducing it because the Minister for Social Protection has taken €32 million away from the young unemployed people in our society and has retained only €14 million of it as a job creation, youth guarantee measure. That means that €18 million has disappeared into the black hole of the economy never to be seen again rather than being used as a stimulus with a substantial increase as well.
According to the International Labour Organization, the cost of creating sustainable jobs and for the guarantee to live up to its name is in the region of €6,600 per participant, yet the combined measures the Government has announced will lead to approximately €500 per participant. That is a substantial difference and that figure comes from the possible figure for the youth guarantee across Europe and the €14 million that has been set aside. That will not make any major dent in the level of youth unemployment. Any measure is welcome if it manages to address the problem, but it is not a guarantee if one cannot live up to it as a guarantee, and that is what some of the discussions in Europe today were about. It is a sad state of affairs if this Government and the European Union as a whole is sending out a message to young people that the youth guarantee is not in fact a youth guarantee.
The only way to ensure a real youth guarantee is proper investment in job creation for young people.
The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, mentioned that core payments were once again protected, but no such thing has happened. Year on year she has managed to interfere with the core payments of those on social protection. She has changed and reduced core payments this year for jobseekers aged under 26 years, and the same applies with the supplementary welfare allowance. She has interfered with the illness benefit, and earlier this year the jobseeker's benefit was changed, with three months being taken off. The fuel allowance was reduced last year. Child benefit was substantially interfered with this year and there will be another change in January as a consequence of last year's budget. These are all core payments and no one can say they are not.
There are 112,000 families on the housing list and that number is growing. The Minister can point to subsidies to private landlords in the form of rent allowance, the rental accommodation scheme or the proposed housing allowance payment. The problem is that at the same time the Government is doing that, rents are going up and the effect will be that the investment in private landlords will lead to reduced levels of accommodation for those on the housing list.
If the money currently directed towards private landlords was instead directed towards local authorities - I am referring to local authorities rather than voluntary housing associations - then the Government would see a better and more sustainable outcome for long-term delivery of housing. Announcements were made in the budget that additional moneys would be made available for voluntary housing bodies. Again, local authorities have been left out despite that they have had a very good record of delivering for communities and those on the housing list over the years.
Another problem is the proposal for the home adaptation grant and the fact it has been cut by 40%, a mean cut considering it comes on top of the previous year's cut. This year money is being made available to insulate houses and I have no major problem with that because it is a job stimulus measure, it is required and it should be available across the board. Local authority housing should be the first to benefit from the insulation scheme because the people in those houses often depend on social welfare, they are the lowest paid and cannot afford to upgrade their houses. The fact that the housing adaptation grant has been substantially cut is affecting the most vulnerable in society, the very people the Government said it would protect in the programme for Government. These are the people who need doors widened because the wheelchair will not fit into the house, a ramp at the front of the house, bars to pull themselves into the house and bars to help them walk around the basement of the house. They may need a toilet and bathroom downstairs because the house they live in is no longer useable by them because they may be confined to a wheelchair or they may find it difficult to walk. These are the people who are now going to be on longer waiting lists.
I know the position in my city, Dublin, and I presume it is the same across the board. Dublin City Council ran out of money to facilitate adaptations for disabled people in June this year. The miserly money that the city council gets from the Government to facilitate these housing adaptations will be spent or committed for those who have been waiting on the list prior to June this year and those who have been added to it since then. It is a false economy because we are finding that people end up staying in hospitals or nursing homes because their houses are not fit for purpose and that is a further cost to the State. This is a substantial cost and I have dealt with people who have ended up staying in hospital or nursing homes for several months. In one case the delay was nine months before the person was allowed home and only then when the family managed to get a loan from the credit union to make the necessary adaptations to the house. The family could ill-afford it and they are still struggling to cope.
The other proposal highlighted to deal with the unemployment crisis among young people was JobBridge. I will not go into detail because I have had this argument with the Minister for Social Protection. The community employment schemes are problematic as well because there has been no reinstatement of the training grant. Therefore, those on the community employment schemes still do not have a guaranteed outcome and they are not getting the same training as in the past.
Apprentices have also been hit by a deduction. They are forced to make deductions while in education. They will suffer the consequences and perhaps this will discourage some young people from staying in an apprentice scheme. Perhaps they will take the bád bán to America or Australia. I hope they stay and I encourage anyone in an apprenticeship to continue in it, despite this Government, to get the qualification and use it in this country. We live in hope that we can create an economy and society of which these young people can be proud.
Sinn Féin made its proposals and the Minister rejected them because he did not implement them. I am disappointed that once again the Minister failed to take the opportunity to introduce a wealth tax. We have had this argument across the Chamber in recent years. A wealth tax has been introduced in other countries. It is not something we simply plucked out of the air. We did not decide on an exorbitant figure to be dropped down on all the rich people in society. The Department should at least take the opportunity in the coming months to see exactly how it could work. Let us consider the French model. The authorities in France have considered increasing the tax and the percentage charged on people with wealth. Let us consider that as a model to see whether it could impact or raise the type of money required instead of the property tax, which is a blunt instrument, as we have seen in recent weeks.
I heard some on the Government benches bemoaning the property tax, how it was implemented and the fact it does not take account of maintenance fees and so on. These are the very people who voted against having a proper debate on it. They will suffer the consequences for its introduction and the fact it is a regressive rather than progressive measure, as all taxation should be.