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Image / Agenda / Breaking Stories

Budget 2023: Childcare cuts and free contraception for all women aged 16-30


By Sarah Finnan
26th Sep 2022

Pexels

Budget 2023: Childcare cuts and free contraception for all women aged 16-30

Budget 2023 was revealed just this afternoon, with government officials signing off on a number of measures designed to combat the growing cost of living crisis.

The cost of living crisis, the childcare crisis, the environmental crisis, the housing crisis; the country is not in the midst of one singular crisis, but many… and the list of things that people have to contend with only grows by the day. As IMAGE Editorial Director Dominique McMullan recently noted, the word crisis no longer carries much weight, so often has it been used of late.

With threats over energy blackouts, inflation and mass emigration hanging over the nation, people are all asking the same question; what is the government doing to solve this?

And with Budget 2023 officially revealed this afternoon, we finally have an answer. “As one of the most open economies in the world, we benefit when things are going well internationally, but when they reverse, we are also one of the most exposed,” Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe commented in his speech earlier today. Mr Donohoe’s address was followed by a speech from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath.

Here’s what we know about the so-called “Cost of Living Budget”.

Education and childcare

A once-off reduction of €1,000 will be made to the student contribution fee (for the 2022/2023 academic year) and there will be a once-off double SUSI payment for students – SUSI payments will increase by between 10-14% from next September. The government also approved a permanent €500 reduction in student contribution fees for households earning between €62,000 and €100,000. 

With regards to childcare, there will be a 24% reduction in childcare fees. ??As it stands, the average monthly cost of childcare for parents across Ireland comes in at around €750, though that figure is often significantly higher for parents in Dublin where there is greater demand for places. The National Childcare Scheme hourly subsidy is to increase from 50c to €1.40.

370 additional teaching posts will be introduced across the country, thereby reducing the student-teacher ratios from 24:1 to 23:1 – the third such consecutive decrease. Over 600 additional teachers will work to support those with special needs along with 1,194 additional SNAs. 

Parents of primary school children will be able to avail of free school books from next September, after Minister for Education Minister Norma Foley secured funding of €47million in the Budget. A payment of €500 will be made to those who qualify for the Working Family Payment in November. 

Taxation

Carbon tax will increase but will be offset by a national oil reserve levy – meaning that the price at the pump for petrol and diesel will not change. There will also be an excise duty reduction of 21c per litre for diesel, 16c per litre for petrol and 5.4c per litre marked gas/oil, A 9% VAT reduction on energy is to be extended until the end of February 2023.

The excise duty on a 20-pack of cigarettes will increase by 50c, with pro-rata increases on other tobacco products. The bank levy has been extended for another year with the aim of raising €87million. Meanwhile, an income tax package of €1.1billion will increase the lower tax rate band up to €40,000. Personal tax credits will increase by €75 while carer tax will increase by €100. 

The 9% VAT rate will continue until February. A 0% VAT rate is to be applied to hormone and nicotine replacement products and period products.

Housing

The Mica Redress Scheme will also be implemented and will be funded by a 10% levy on concrete products. This will raise €80million annually, and will take effect from early April 2023.

A vacant homes tax will apply to residential properties, occupied for less than 30 days in a 12-month period, with the amount being three times the property’s existing local property tax., The Help to Buy scheme has also been extended until the end of 2024. A rent tax credit worth €500 per year, may also be claimed for rent paid in 2022. 

Over €6billion has been given to the Department of Housing, the majority of which (€3.5 billion) will come in the form of capital investment, while €1.7billion has been allocated to delivering 9,100 social homes. Homelessness services will receive €215million for their work.

Health 

The Department of Health will receive €23.4billion of Budget 2023. This will go toward the removal of hospital in-patient charges to all, providing free GP care for a further 400,000 people and delivering 650 acute and community beds by end of 2023. There will also be a push to recruit a further 6,000 additional healthcare staff. 

Free contraception will be extended to all women aged 16-30, while €58million has been allocated for mental health services. The ongoing Covid-19 response will receive €439 million. 

RTÉ reports that Budget 2023 will extend the provision of free GP care to children aged 6 and 7 later this year. For the first time, the it will also provides supports in relation to access to IVF treatment, expanding women’s health hubs and providing additional funding for screening and other women’s health services. GP visit cards will be provided to those on or below the median income (340,000 additional people).

Energy 

All households will receive a €600 electricity credit, to be paid in three instalments – one before Christmas and the other two at the start of next year. As well as the normal weekly fuel allowance, a lump sum of €400 will be made before Christmas to further assist with energy bills. 

Meanwhile, an energy support scheme for businesses will also be implemented, covering 40% of the increased cost of electricity bills (up to €10,000 per month), and this will be calculated by comparing average unit prices from 2021 to 2022.

Transport 

The government also approved €2.6billion in funding for transport, with that going to progressing many existing projects including BusConnects, Metrolink and Dart+. Officials have also agreed on an extension to the 20% reduction in public transport costs for the duration of 2023 – an important point of contention for the Green Party, in particular.

Social welfare

A double social welfare payment is to be paid in October, along with the Christmas bonus which will be paid in early December. Core social welfare payments will increase by €12 per week. A double child benefit if €140 per child will also be made on top of normal monthly payments. Meanwhile, carers will receive a once-off €500 carers support grant in November. A once-off payment of €200 will be given to recipients of the Living Alone Allowance before Christmas. 

Garda 

Approximately 1,000 new gardaí are to be recruited next year, along with 430 garda civilian staff. Around 200 new recruits are expected to enter Templemore each quarter for the coming years. The capital allocation for Defence Forces will increase by €5 million, while an extra 400 permanent members will be recruited in 2023. Irish Aid funding will also increase by €100million, with €75million to be spent on humanitarian aid specifically for Ukraine.

According to breakingnews.ie, members of the government, including Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, have insisted that Budget 2023 has been designed to “put money back in people’s pockets”. That said, opposition parties have already raised concerns over plans, commenting that projected figures will not go “far enough” to protect those who are struggling in the current climate.