Budget 2020 will deliver a better deal for families and protect elderly people in Clare, thanks to a range of initiatives to reduce the cost of living and protect our future, Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey has said.

Speaking after Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe delivered his Budget speech on Tuesday, Deputy Carey said that families across the county will benefit from a reduction in the cost of living and a range of policies to protect their future in the context of Brexit. 

“One of the main initiatives for families is in the area of childcare. Funding for early learning and childcare will increase by a significant €54m in 2020, to support the continued provision of two years of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme for all children, and ensure the full participation of children with disabilities under the Access and Inclusion Model. 

“Crucially this funding will also support the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme, which will open in November. The increased thresholds to €60,000 net (up to €100,000 gross) means that an estimated 7,500 additional children will benefit, and some existing families will benefit from increased subsidies.

“The package will also give parents two weeks of paid parental leave each while the Living Alone Allowance, which helps our most vulnerable elderly people and people with disabilities, is being increased by €5.

“The Fuel Allowance is being increased by €2 per week and there will be increases to programmes that help address the causes of fuel poverty, particularly as we work to decarbonise the economy in order to protect the environment.

“We are going to broaden the eligibility for the Household Benefit Package by changing the under 70 household composition criteria to allow for an adult son/daughter to reside in the household. 

“We are conscious that the cost of care has become difficult for many families to cope with. Thanks to Budget 2020, an increase in the Home Carer Tax Credit from €1,500 to €1,600 will take effect from 1 January 2020. This is expected to benefit around 85,000 families in Ireland where one spouse works primarily in the home to care for children or other dependants.

“There will also be continued improvements in healthcare for Clare families. From September 2020, we will expand free GP care to children under 8, as well as providing free dental care for children under 6.  There will also be increased funding for overnight in-home day respite care. 

“From July, prescription charges will be reduced by 50c for everyone and the Medical Card income thresholds increased by €50 (€150 for a couple). From September the monthly threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme will reduced by €10. These measures will benefit 56,000 people nationally.

“Children across the county will benefit from improvements to education under Budget 2020. At over €11 billion, this is the highest ever allocation to the education sector and an increase of nearly €2 billion since 2016. This is a real sign of the priority this Government places on education and the ambition Fine Gael has for our country’s future.

“The increased funding will deliver supports to the children who need it most. As well as paying for 150 new mainstream teaching posts in schools, there will be an investment of €1.9 billion in special education, providing over 400 additional teaching posts to support those with special educational needs and hiring over 1,000 additional Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). At over 17,000, we will have more SNAs in schools than ever before.

“There is also €1 million for free school books in 50-plus primary schools, and we will provide an enhanced school meals programme, providing hot meals for 30,000 children.

“The Budget is also aimed at creating safer communities in which families can live and work.  The budget of An Garda Síochána will increase by €81 million in 2020, delivering up to 700 new Garda recruits. In addition, extra civilian staff will allow more trained Gardaí to return to frontline policing to ensure our communities are safer.

“Building on the success of the Help to Buy scheme, which has already assisted more than 12,000 first time buyers to purchase a home since it was launched, I am pleased to say the incentive is being extended in its current form to the end of 2021.

“Budget 2020 is about four key things. There is a €1 billion package to protect Ireland from the worst of a No Deal Brexit. We are protecting the environment with cleaner air, warmer homes and sustainable businesses. We are ensuring balanced regional development with investment in schools, hospitals, houses, primary care centres, buses, and roads. And, through the variety of measures I have outlined, we are making life a little bit easier for families in Clare,” Deputy Carey concluded.