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Cost of third-level education, childcare, transport and health all in crosshairs for October Budget

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Childcare often comes at a crippling cost. Photo: Stock image

Childcare often comes at a crippling cost. Photo: Stock image

Childcare often comes at a crippling cost. Photo: Stock image

New childcare subsidies and public transport fare reductions are expected to be cornerstones of a new cost-of- living package for next year.

Reduced health costs, at both hospital and pharmacy level, will also be aimed for in Budget 2023, and there is a determination to reduce third-level education costs, with lowered annual registration fees and a higher ­student-earnings disregard for the Susi grant.

The outlines of the new cost-of-living package are already taking shape after the last Budget saw a dedicated series of inflation reliefs for the first time in decades.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste have both indicated further measures are on the way.

There could be increased universal childcare subsidies for all parents, while recent temporary reductions in ­public-transport costs will likely be made permanent, being originally due to run out at the end of this year.

Childcare and public transport were the two areas specified by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar when he spoke in the Dáil about further scope to give back to beleaguered taxpayers.

It has now emerged that planners are concentrating on other areas, including the cost of putting children through college, which is now very high for families, especially in rural Ireland where many would-be students face the extra burden of covering accommodation costs; and the cost of healthcare, with a drive to extend GP visit cards and reduce hospital charges and medicine costs.

Fianna Fáil says it will continue to prioritise reductions in the cost of living, with a senior source saying it would “further address the issues people face in Budget 2023”.

It said the Department of Health has entered talks with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to expand free GP care to children aged six and seven.

The party also wants a further reduction in the Drug Payment Scheme maximum that can be spent on drugs in a given month. It has fallen from €114 last year to €80 and could drop again, with the State taking up the slack.

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Free contraception for women aged 17 to 25 will be introduced this year, and the hunt is on for further targeted efforts, possibly in the area of period poverty.

“We recognise the short-term challenge rising prices is having on households and businesses and, with our partners in government, we have already taken steps to help ease the impact, especially on households with lower incomes,” a Fianna Fáil source said.

“While we can’t mitigate every rise caused by the war, we have acted more quickly and more thoroughly than most European countries.”

Meanwhile, the Green Party wants to use corporate and indirect tax revenues to ease the price spiral for ordinary citizens.

A spokesman said: “The Green Party believes that any measures should be targeted at those most affected by price inflation and focus on areas where the State can reduce the cost of living and contribute to our climate goals.”

Fine Gael also believes there is room to ramp up cost rental and affordable housing schemes to help ease the national accommodation crisis.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar told the Irish Independent: “The Tánaiste has asked for these matters to be worked up further in the next few weeks.”

It is emphasised, however, that Fine Gael’s wish-list will be the subject of coalition talks.

There was a significant package in Budget 2022, which was subsequently improved as the scale of inflation was realised.

A further package for next year will come in the autumn from Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Measures taken so far include €5 increases to the fuel and living-alone allowances, along with a package of €505m, including the €200 energy credit paid to every household, as well as a lump sum for people on the fuel allowance of €125, now being paid, which benefits 372,000 homes.

A sum of €320m funds a temporary reduction in excise duty on fuels, and an €18m scheme offers relief for hauliers.

A range of initiatives around affordability are also under way in health under minister Stephen Donnelly, including proposals to abolish hospital charges for under-16s to be brought forward.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has announced measures worth around €90m to support the agriculture sector directly, including a €20m package in two parts for the pig sector and €12m for new tillage crops.

Further supports are expect- ed for farmers, while postmasters will also be funded in an effort to keep the post office network alive.

Mr McConalogue will soon release further details on a scheme that will pay farmers up to €1,000 to save hay and silage.


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