PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has announced increased spending for the Department of Children of up to €1.1bn as part of the Government’s plan to tackle the rising cost of childcare.
he funding will be used to increase the amount of time parents can avail of the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme.
Children will now be eligible for the scheme from the age of three to five and half or until they begin primary school.
Some €15m will be used to fund a new scheme for children with disabilities.
A range of audits and inspections of early childcare education facilities will be introduced to ensure there is a high quality of care.
An additional 8,000 places will be available under Community Childcare Subvention Programme for families in disadvantaged areas.
As expected, Child Benefit will be increased by €5 and families will received €140 a month from next year.
Two weeks of paternity leave will also come in to law from next September.
“The improvement in our public finances has given us the opportunity to assist hard working parents,” Mr Howlin said.
“The package announced today will be of particular help to working mothers. And by increasing participation in the labour force these measures will also be a key contributor to growth,” he added.
Increase in the minimum wage to €9.15 per hour
Mr Howlin has said the Irish economy is now bigger than where it was at the peak of the Celtic Tiger crash.
Mr Howlin has confirmed that there will be an increase to the minimum wage from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour.
Mr Howlin said there will be 2,260 new additional teaching posts, including 600 new resource teachers.
Mr Howlin said the new teachers will allow the pupil teacher ratio at primary level fall to 27:1 from 28:1 and from 19:1 to 18.7:1 at secondary level.
He said in Justice, he has granted additional funding to allow the recruitment of 600 new Gardai. This is higher than the 500 figure previously reported.
He said resources have also been made available to fund the new Policing Authority.
He paid tribute to those who lost their lives at the weekend in Carrickmines and Omeath and he said the Government is committed to supporting An Garda Siochana.
He also said that €25m was being made available to aid the response to the migrant crisis in Europe.
He said the Government will allocate €640m for Overseas Aid, of which €486m will be managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Pension payments to increase by €3 per week
Mr Howlin also announced that pension payments will increase to €3 per week from next year.
The Respite Care Grant will also be restored to €1,700 and the fuel allowance increased by €2.50 a week to €22.50.
The Government are also increasing the threshold for the Family Income Supplement by €5 per week for families with one child and by €10 per week for families with two or more children.
“Together with the rise in the minimum wage, this budget confirms our commitment to helping the low paid. We want to make work pay,” Mr Howlin said.
The Christmas bonus for social welfare recipients will be restored by 75pc.
Health and housing spending increases
Mr Howlin said funding for Health will total €13.2bn in 2016.
He confirmed that next year Free GP care will be made available to all children under 12.
He said this marks the next phase in the implementation of Universal GP care.
He said that over 2 million people are now covered by a medical card, a 25pc increase since 2010.
He said that he will be giving €940m to fund the Fair Deal nursing home scheme, and said the additional funding will see applications dealt with in less than four weeks.
He said since last year, hospital staffing has increased by 3,000, with more than 1,000 more nurses being hired.
In relation to housing, Mr Howlin said that €500m has been made available to build or acquire new homes.
He also increased the funding for social housing by a further €69m to €414m.
He said this will help local authorities secure accommodation for an additional 14,000 families.
He said he is also increasing the funding for emergency accommodation for homeless people by €17m.
He said this will bring total State funding in this area up to €70m a year, up 56pc since 2014.
€50m earmarked for 1916 commemorations including Interpretative Centre
Mr Howlin announced €50m for the Government’s 1916 Rising commemorations which include development of the GPO Interpretative Centre, the National Monument on Moore Street, Teach an Phiarsaigh in Ros Muc and the Athenaeum in Enniscorthy.
Around €903 will be given to the Department of Defence and €1.3bn will be given to the Department of Agriculture.