Sunday 28 December 2014

Thumbs up for 'family friendly' plan despite health fears

Fiach Kelly and Michael Brennan

Published 16/10/2013 | 04:00

Wicklow TD Simon Harris
Wicklow TD Simon Harris

GOVERNMENT TDs have expressed some fears about the clampdown on medical cards while giving a guarded welcome to the Budget.

Fine Gael and Labour deputies admitted there are some areas that could come back to haunt the Government, but were largely relieved.

Many TDs said the crackdown on eligibility and the changes to income thresholds for medical cards, as well as the abolition of the telephone allowance, would upset older people.

One Fine Gael TD said: "I would have concerns about health, you can't take that amount of money out without affecting frontline services."

The home renovation incentive was broadly welcomed in Fine Gael, and a parliamentary party meeting on the Budget last night was described as quiet.

'IMPROVEMENT'

"I've been pushing for the home improvement so I was glad that's in there," said Kildare North Fine Gael TD Anthony Lawlor. "I think it is reasonably fair."

Cork South-West's Noel Harrington said: "For me, a rural deputy, it's relatively okay. You have the tourism, which is protected with the 9pc VAT rate, and the construction stimulus will help.

"We'll have to wait to see the effect of changing the criteria for medical cards. There'll be a campaign alright but it should be remembered the people who have got hammered and have got nothing in recent years are young families, middle income earners who are trying to stay in the country and keep their jobs."

Wicklow TD Simon Harris said: "There will be no changes to headline social welfare rates, child benefit has been protected, class sizes are protected and all families with children under five will now have free GP cards."

Waterford's John Deasy welcomed the extension of the 'Living City' initiative from his own hometown to Dublin, Cork, Galway and Kilkenny.

The scheme was championed by Mr Deasy and Finance Minister Michael Noonan said it "was designed encourage families to live in the historic buildings in our city centres".

Dublin South-East TD Eoghan Murphy said that while the Budget is not perfect, it should set the country on a sounder economic footing.

Labour backbenchers admitted social welfare cuts such as the axing of the phone allowance and the cutting of dole payments for young people will be difficult to defend.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton told her backbenchers Labour was the "party of work" and that it was preferable to have young people aged 18-22 in education or training rather than on the dole.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said this was the "last of the bailout Budgets" and was helping the people who "had to pay for everything but qualify for nothing".

Labour Louth TD Ged Nash was one of many party TDs who welcomed "family friendly" policies in the Budget such as school book rental schemes.

Labour Party officials briefed TDs extensively about the axing of the bereavement grant, telling them that poor families could still get funeral expenses under the Department of Social Welfare's "exceptional needs payments".

Irish Independent

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