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Tuesday, 8th October 2019

O’Dowd welcomes 'prudent, hard Brexit-focused' budget

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Deputy Fergus O'Dowd.

Local Fine Gael TD, Fergus O’Dowd, has welcomed what he calls “the prudent and hard Brexit focused approach to Budget 2020.”

He has said that the measures announced today will provide significant protection for our economy in very challenging and uncertain times and will also deliver for many vulnerable families and elderly people in the North East.

“The one million additional home care hours is of vital importance in caring for people at home and keeping them out of hospital whilst also speeding up the home discharge of patients from hospitals” he said.

“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.

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“This funding will also support the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme from November while the increased income 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 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.

“The measures undertaken in this budget will raise €6.5billion for climate action and just transition over the next ten years through modest but meaningful increases in carbon tax.

“A total of €52.8 million is being made available to retrofit the homes of people living in or at risk of energy poverty through the Warmer Homes Scheme.  This represents the biggest ever allocation for the Warmer Homes Scheme – more than double the initial allocation for 2019.  €13 million of this funding is ring-fenced revenue arising from the increase in the Carbon Tax.

“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.

“From Sept 2020, we will expand free GP care to children under 8, as well as providing free dental care for children under 6.

“From July, prescription charges will be reduced by 50c for everyone and the Medical Card income thresholds for over 70’s will increase by €50 for an individual (€150 for a couple). From September the monthly threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme will reduced by €10.

“As well as 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.

“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, we will see the incentive extended in its current form to the end of 2021.

“This Budget will also see a record level of investment in housing, with more than €2.5bn allocated to housing. This includes capital funding of more than €1.1bn which will support the delivery of over 11,000 new social homes in 2020.

“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 County Louth.
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