How will Budget 2017 affect children?
One of the biggest headlines of Budget 2017 was the investment in subsidised childcare for all. While this has garnered much debate Barnardos is clear this is long overdue and a welcome move, which will provide relief for all families - especially those on low incomes. High quality, affordable childcare is a key way to help end child poverty.
However overall Budget 2017 won't make much of a dent in the atrociously high child poverty figures. We were particularly disappointed with the paltry and piecemeal education budget decisions which will do little to help struggling families.
Below we outline the child-related headline information from Budget 2017:
- €5 increase in all weekly payments e.g. lone parents, jobseekers, carers etc.
- Half a per cent decrease in the lowest three rates of USC
The much publicised and debated cut to the USC will mean anyone paying the tax will be from €60 to €355 better off per year. To put that in context that’s between €1.15 and €6.80 more in someone’s pocket per week.
Barnardos firmly believes the €335 million it cost to deliver this feeble reduction would have been much better spent investing in education, health, housing supports, or virtually anywhere across our creaking public services.
- €37 million additional funding for Tusla
- €35 million for a new subsidised childcare scheme
- €86 million for ECCE and Access and Inclusion Schemes
The subsidised childcare is available to families earning less than €47,500 per year, for children aged 6 months up to 15 years. It is available through all childcare providers, including registered child minders. As part of the plan a universal subsidy of up to €80 per month will be available for all families for children aged 6 months to 3 years.
- 2,515 new teaching posts (this will have negligible impact on class sizes due to increases in the number of pupils)
- €5 million for implementation for an Action Plan for Educational Inclusion
- 50,000 more children to benefit from school meals programme
There was no funding available for school books or an increase in the capitation paid to schools, despite indications there would be in the Department of Education’s Action Plan.
A lack of extra cash means the viability of current school book rental schemes are jeopardised, parents will continue to pay high costs for their child’s school books and schools will continue to be forced to make up the shortfall in funding by targeting parents for fundraising and levying hefty ‘voluntary contributions’.
- €28 million investment in emergency accommodation
- €105 million for the Housing Assistance Payment
- €9 million allocated for Traveller specific accommodation
The allocation of €1.2 billion of Government spending to implement itshousing action plan ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ is most welcome. However, there are almost 1,000 more children living in emergency accommodation than this time last year and it is clear what we need most is action on the back of investment resulting in real improvements in the lives of children experiencing housing instability and homelessness.
- Automatic medical cards for children in receipt of domiciliary care allowance
- Tax on sugar sweetened drinks (to be introduced in April 2018)
Unlike budgets of recent years which heralded the roll out of free GP care first for under 6s and then under 12s, there was little in this year’s health budget targeting children.