independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Hidden hits of Budget 2012: benefits down, health care up

- Cut-off points make it more difficult to get huge range of benefits
- Cost of private health insurance to spiral

Brendan Howlin. Photo: PA

A SWATHE of hidden cuts and stealth charges were cloaked in yesterday's Budget. After a month of scaremongering by ministers, a number of cutbacks were dropped in an effort to make the package appear to be not as bad as was feared.



But the first part of Budget 2012 contained a raft of cuts and charges for struggling families that were hidden within figures for overall savings.

The changes in eligibility thresholds and cut-off points will make it more difficult for thousands to qualify fully for existing social welfare payments and entitlements.

Another major impact on the cost of private insurance will be a plan to have public hospitals charge more for private beds. That is expected to send private health insurance soaring by anything from €400 to €1,400 a year for a family of two adults and two children.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin deliberately avoided spelling out the impact of some of the measures.

Among the cuts in store following yesterday's Budget are: l Child benefit cut for third and subsequent children.

•€100 household charge.

•€250 rise in college fees, and the cost of school transport and drug bills rising.

The social welfare payments affected include a six-week cut to the fuel allowance, reductions in disability payments for young adults and changes to the rules for back-to-school allowance, jobseekers' benefit and widows' pension.

The headline rate of child benefit will stay at €140 per month for the first two children, but the rate for the third child will be cut by €19 and fourth and subsequent children will be reduced by €17.

The second part of the Budget will be announced today by Finance Minister Michael Noonan. A 2pc hike in VAT and an increase in motor tax are among the anticipated tax hikes.

But figures in yesterday's document indicate the Government intends to raise PRSI from new sources, such as rental income and dividends.

FULL REPORT: BUDGET SUPPLEMENT

Irish Independent

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