Young and old left with grievances after Noonan’s third budget

Recipients of maternity benefit, jobseeker’s allowance and medical cards are among the losers

In less than  a year, maternity benefit has been cut by nearly €3,500

In less than a year, maternity benefit has been cut by nearly €3,500

Wed, Oct 16, 2013, 01:00

If you’re a teetotaller aged between 25 and 70 without any savings other than a modest pension and don’t give birth or suffer a bereavement over the next 12 months then Michael Noonan’s third budget will probably not trouble you greatly.

If you have children aged five or under, plan to renovate your home or buy a new one or work in the hospitality sector then you might even be slightly better off after the Minister for Finance unveiled a budget that managed to suck €2.5 billion out of the economy without cutting the take-home pay of many working adults.

Bleak for many
It is, however, a different story for hundreds of thousands of others. If you are young and unemployed or pregnant or elderly then yesterday will have been another bleak budget day, with many of the measures rolled out by Mr Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin set to hit you hard.

The income threshold for over-70s for medical cards is being lowered to €900 a week for a couple and €500 for a single person in a move that will see 35,000 older people forced to make do with the GP card.

The €9.50 monthly telephone allowance for older people is also to be scrapped although other allowances for pensioners – including free travel, gas and electricity allowances and the television licence – will remain unchanged.

The same cannot be said for the €850 bereavement grant which is axed.

The sick are being hit too, with Mr Howlin announcing a €1 hike in prescription charges to €2.50 – with an overall monthly cap of €23. He also announced the Government is to review all medical cards to remove ineligible and redundant ones, saving €113 million.

While the Government appeared to suggest this is no country for old men, it does not appear to be much of a country for young ones either.

All new applicants for
jobseekers’ allowance will see their payments fall. Those aged between 22 and 24 will see their social welfare payments drop from a meagre €144 to a miserly €100 a week, while 25 year olds will get €144 instead of €188.

The news was bad for the pregnant too. Some 90 per cent of women in receipt of maternity benefit claim the higher rate of €262 per week but this is to be cut to €230 per week next year, while the lower rate will climb from €217 to the same amount.

The move will cost those who claim maternity benefit from next year €832 and the cut comes after the announcement last year that maternity benefit would be taxed, a move that has taken €108 per week from new mothers. In less than a year, Mr Noonan has cut maternity benefit by nearly €3,500.

Free GP care is to be rolled out to all children aged five and under, at a cost of €37 million to the exchequer.

The home renovation incentive will provide an income tax credit to homeowners who carry out renovation and improvement works on their principal private residences in 2014 and 2015.

It will be payable over the two years following the year in which the work is carried out, and will be calculated at 13.5 per cent on all qualifying expenditure over €5,000 up to a maximum of €30,000.

Old reliables
The cost of 20 cigarettes, a pint and a shot of spirits climbed by 10 cent overnight, while wine was hit hard again and the 50 cent increase in excise duty means Mr Noonan has raised the cost of a bottle of wine by €1.50 in just 10 months. A bottle of whiskey went up by €2 last night.

Savers were hit very hard with Dirt tax climbing by 8 per cent to 41 per cent, while other tax changes mean anyone who makes a tax return to Revenue for things including rent will have to pay PRSI from next year.