Benefits for new claimants under-25 to be cut in budget
Free GP care for children aged five and under to be introduced
Unemployment benefits for new claimants aged under-25 are to be reduced in the budget.
People aged between 18 and 21 years currently receive €100 per week in jobseekers allowance with those aged between 22 and 24 years receiving €144. The rate for those aged 25 years and over is €188.
A Government source said the €100 rate would be extended to those aged up to 24 years, with €144 payment coming at 25 years and €188 payment at 26 years. The measure is expected to save more than €30 million annually.
The initiative is seen in Government circles as a way of encouraging young people to take up training opportunities or to participate in schemes such as JobBridge and JobsPlus.
The Cabinet reached a deal to provide free GP care for children aged five and under as it signed off late last night on tomorrow’s budget.
The GP scheme will cost €40 million next year, providing care free at the point of access.
It was agreed after Ministers James Reilly and Brendan Howlin were called to direct talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to settle the estimate for the health service.
“By and large, virtually everything is resolved at this stage: a few little tweaking of things, but the structure of each department line by line was gone through and the Cabinet signed off,” Mr Howlin said shortly before midnight.
“We’ll have some surprises I hope by Tuesday.”
The introduction of the GP scheme had been in question amid doubt over the state of the finances in the health services.
Ahead of the talks, Dr Reilly said he was “not ruling it out” but that “tough decisions have to be made” in the budget.
It will be cast as a step on the road to universal health insurance. The Cabinet meeting started after 7pm and broke up at 11.20pm.
The settlement of the health budget was said not to necessitate any fundamental review of the provisional estimates agreed last week with other Ministers.
Last-minute talks with the Ministers for Health and Public Expenditure followed prolonged tension between the two men over the scale of a large health spending overrun this year and the action required to deal with it.
As he arrived at Government Buildings, Mr Kenny would not say whether a supplementary estimate will be needed later this year to make up the shortfall.
“You have 2½ months to go yet in terms of the running of the health services,’’ the Taoiseach said. “I cannot predict what that spend will be.’’
Dr Reilly had gone into weekend talks battling demands for a spending cut next year well in excess of €500 million.
However, he still secured funding for the free-GP scheme.
There was no pre-Cabinet meeting of the Economic Management Council, the committee at which the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Mr Howlin settle the thrust of fiscal policy.