Ministers defend budget cut to annual respite care grant
Senior Ministers have defended the decision to cut the respite care grant in Budget 2013 and said the decision will not be reversed.
The €325 cut in the €1,700 annual grant for respite care has emerged as one of the more politically controversial elements of the Budget and has led to a protest by carers outside Leinster House this afternoon.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said today the Budget was about “getting people back to work and about getting the economy back on its feet”.
She said the social welfare budget was under pressure but a decision had been made to maintain the core weekly payment rates to the disabled, pensioners, carers and the unemployed.
Ms Burton told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the rate would now go back to 2006 levels. “I would like to be able to pay more but the fact is the Government must get the finances of the country and the economy of the country right,” she said.
The high number of unemployed people receiving welfare payments since the crash has put significant pressure on the social welfare budget, she said, adding that she had to go to the social protection committee on the morning of the Budget to get an extra €600 million for this year. “Next year we will spend more than €20 billion even after the reductions in expenditure.”
She added that Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin should achieve “very significant savings” when he looks at the areas of increments and allowances in the public service.
The most important tax structure reform is the decision to discontinue the “very generous” tax break arrangements to pensions for very high earners, she said.
Speaking at a jobs announcement in Bray, Co Wicklow by the US multi-national Nypro this morning, Richard Bruton said today the Budget had been decided by Government and “it is not going to be changed”.
When asked how he could justify cuts to respite care as fair, Mr Bruton responded: “We would prefer not to be making cuts in any areas. You could say that of any cut of any new tax that we are developing. There will always be challenges to it, but the truth is that we have to deliver a budget with difficult decisions across the board.
“At the core of our strategy we have to rebuild our economy and see strong enterprises and job growth. That is going to sort our public finances problem.”
When questioned by reporters as to whether or not the Labour Party will support the cut when it comes to the Social Welfare bill, he replied: “Absolutely, we have two parties that are determined to deal with the extraordinary economic mess that we have inherited."
Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White said he does not expect “there to be any changes in the Budget” and added that the cut in the respite allowance was “terribly regrettable”.
“It’s just not actually possible or conceivable that you could make the kind of adjustments that we have to make without affecting social protection , or without effecting health or education,” Mr White told reporters today.