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Mary O'Donoghue of West Clare Family Resource Centre welcomed family-friendly Budget measures, but said longer-term action is needed to improve people's lives.

Budget may get people ‘over a hump’, but what about January?

WHILE families have been identified as the ‘winners’ in Budget 2023, the Coordinator of West Clare Family Resource Centre has said many measure are only designed to “get people over a hump”. Mary O’Donoghue said that while the raft of family-friendly initiatives in the Budget are welcome, longer-term strategic measures are needed to significantly improve people’s quality of life, particularly in the West of this county. 

Among the measures announced in the Budget are a double Child Benefit payment to be paid in November; free school books from primary school children; and a 25% cut in the cost of childcare for those using the National Childcare Scheme. 

Social welfare payments, and pensions, are to increase by €12 per week and a once-off double week “Cost of Living Support” payment will be made to all social welfare recipients in October. The normal Christmas Bonus will be paid in early December.

An extra €500 for Working Family Payment and Carer Support Grant will be paid to recipients in November. A once-off payment of €200 will be made, before Christmas, to recipients of the Living Alone Allowance. €500 will be paid to those on Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension and the Blind Pension.

The weekly Fuel Allowance means limit for over 70s has been extended to €500 for single people, and €1,000 for couples. Fuel allowance recipients will also get an extra lump sum of €400 before Christmas. Other cost-of-living measures include three €200 payments to all households, in electricity credits.

Free GP care will be extended to more than 400,000 people, while measures will be put in place to support schools in meeting their increased costs.

“Any gain that people will make is to be welcomed,” Ms O’Donoghue said. “But really, these measures are only a stop along the road. They’re designed to get people over a hump and out of the cost-of-living crisis for around three months. You have to ask what will face people in January.”

On the issue of childcare costs, Ms O’Donoghue noted that many other challenges face the sector. “We have a real issue with the shortage of places and staff need to be paid properly, as all care workers do.”

Welcoming measures designed to support carers and those with disabilities, Ms O’Donoghue insisted that the purpose of a Budget should be to support everyone to live a good quality of life. “We need to know how much of the health budget will go to services in West Clare,” she said.

“We know that people suffer when it comes to GP services. They have to make the choice between going to the doctor of paying a bill. They will bring their children, but they won’t go themselves if they can’t afford it. While the extension of free GP care is welcome, we also know that there is a huge shortage of GPs, so we need to know what the Health Minister is going to do to address that.

“We also need to know how much will be invested in infrastructure and in job creation. Most of the measures announced in the Budget will be soaked up by inflation. They are welcome, but we need to see long-term initiatives. People have been hit so hard by the cost of living crisis that any action on that is welcome, but you have to question what will be delivered to improve people’s lives in the long term.”

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