During the first nine months of 2021, dependence on social assistance continued to decline. In fact, only 4,334persons had to resort to this aid, 3% less than those who needed it in the first three quarters of 2020.
This confirms the statement made by Prime Minister Robert Abela in his response to Opposition leader Bernard Grech that Malta is registering the lowest dependence on social assistance in our nation’s history.
There was a significant decline also when compared to the same period in 2019, that is well before the pandemic started, when there were 4,880 people dependent on this assistance. This means that despite the pandemic, over two years there has been a decrease of 546 people, or 11 %, in those who need this benefit to subsist.
This decline is completely at odds with what happened in the 2008 economic crisis, when there had been an increase of almost 900 people on social assistance. Moreover, as shown in the table below, we are now in a situation where the number of those depending on this aid has more than halved since the change in Government.
An increase in benefits
Dependence on the supplementary allowance, a non-contributory benefit paid to low-income individuals, also decreased by 501 during the first nine months of 2021, following a decline of 1,213 in 2019. Despite the declining reliance on this benefit, Government still increased its allocation from €6.5 million in 2019 to €8.9 million in 2021. This is because the rates of this benefit have been greatly improved.
A similar development happened to the in-work benefit, which is benefitting almost 5,100 employees with low income. Compared to a year ago, the amount awarded went up by more than half a million euros, or by 13%. This followed an improvement in rates, a widening of eligibility, and the introduction of a supplement for those with children.
Thanks to previous Budgets measures, the amount directed towards those with disabilities has also increased, with the sum invested now almost €23 million, compared to less than €19 million before the pandemic started.
The same happened in relation to Children’s Allowance, where the allocation went up by almost €3 million. Contrast this with what happened in the 2008 economic crisis, when the Consrevative Government had reduced this support to households by more than €2 million.
Pensioners had also been abandoned during that recession, being granted increases that barely offset the rise in the cost of living. In contrast, during the first nine months of 2021 the amount allocated to widows rose for the first time to more than €118 million. This is €9 million, or almost 8%, higher than the sum voted for this purpose before thepandemic.
As for other pensioners, this reached a record high of almost half a billion euros in the first nine months of the year. This signifies a growth of €66 million, or 15%, compared to 2019.
Focusing on just those on the national minimum pension, the allocation has risen by €11 million, or by almost half.
This shows that the Government has focused aid on those most in need and continued to push social progress and the sharing of prosperity despite the strong impact of the pandemic on economic growth and public finances.