The drawing up of the social package, which will be announced in the Budget speech for 2022, is well underway and will target assistance to 300,000 persons or almost 60% of the general population. The package will include measures aimed at enhancing the quality of life of pensioners and other elderly persons, families with children under 16, working parents with children under 23 years, persons with disabilities and health conditions, carers and other social beneficiaries.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Government has already implemented 95% of the social budgetary package for 2021. The measures will boost recurrent expenditure on pensions and social benefits to a record €1.1bn.
Social protection spending, excluding health and education, in 2021 is expected to exceed €1.9bn or over 30% of Government’s recurrent expenditure. Tallying in health and education, the total social outlay represents 55% of the global Government’s recurrent expenditure for the year.
17 out of the 18 announced measures were rolled out by the end of June. These measures aim to lift the quality of life of around 290,000 persons, including beneficiaries themselves and their family members. Government’s social measures in Budget 2021 amongst others targeted over 95,000 persons on a retirement, widow or invalidity pension as well as those in receipt of a service pension and a non-contributory age pension.
The Budget 2022 social package will target assistance to 300,000 persons or almost 60% of the general population.
Other measures targeted almost 15,000 elderly persons who missed out on qualifying to a pension and more than 36,000 persons aged 75 years and over living in the community, close to 43,000 families with over 63,000 dependents under 16 years, foster carers, 5,000 working parents on low or medium incomes with 8,000 children under 23 years, 22,000 beneficiaries of the supplementary allowance and almost 7,000 on social assistance, as well as 2,000 carers and 5,000 persons with disability.
Encompassing the number of beneficiaries as well as their family members, the social measures positively affect the lives of around 55% of the general population. The measures included a €5 weekly increase in all pensions and the recognition of social security contributions paid before the age of 19 years if a person fell short of the minimum contribution average to qualify for a contributory pension. Almost 900 persons, mostly women, became entitled to a pension as a result of this measure. For those elderly persons, who notwithstanding did not benefit from the measure, were awarded a €50 increase in their annual bonus.
The implementation of the Budget 2021 social measures also saw the introduction of a child supplement of between €50 to €70 each for all children under 16, an increase of €10 weekly in the foster care allowance, an extension in the In-Work Benefit thresholds, the introduction of a carer’s grant for unemployed parents caring for their severely disabled children over 16, and an enhancement in the Supplementary Allowance payable to low income persons.
The remaining measure envisages the payment of one-time grants to address past grievances and anomalies. Applications will be processed in the coming weeks in advance of payment in November. The grant schemes are being run for the fifth year running and around 5,500 persons stand to benefit this year.
Minister Michael Falzon, whilst noting with satisfaction the progress achieved in the implementation of Budget 2021’s social measures, stated that this is yet another clear testament of Government’s social conscience. ‘’We are a Government of social justice and social mobility, but most of all, a social conscience, a Government striving to ward off more people from the risk of poverty and social exclusion.”