Budget 2017 – choices and priorities

 

Sir, – I turned on the television news to listen to commentary on the budget, in this era of “new politics”. The first comment I heard was “it was a missed opportunity”. I immediately turned the television off. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN CULLEN,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – Is the Government betting on a mild winter? Surely the fiver would be of some use during the winter to a pensioner, rather than for a pint on St Patrick’s Day. – Yours, etc,

CONAN DOYLE,

Pococke Lower,

Kilkenny.

Sir, – The sickest and poorest in our society, those who are ill and in receipt of a medical card, continue to be charged €300 a year for essential medicines.

The reduction by €5 per month to €20 of the charges cap to patients over 70 does little to change the plight of these vulnerable patients.

It is practically impossible for pharmacies to differentiate between patients over and under 70, especially in cases where family members may be on either side of the divide. It will cost more to administer within pharmacies and within the HSE than it will give back, and will do nothing to halt the harm suffered by patients who refuse to avail of the medicines due to this charge.– Yours, etc,

JAMES CASSIDY, MPSI

An Bun Beag ,

Co Dhún na nGall.

Sir, – Plé, the national association of third-level institutions offering degree-level training in early childhood care and education, welcomes the proposed Single Affordable Childcare Scheme proposed in Budget 2017. The thrust of this scheme, which moves from universal to targeted support for those most in need, is particularly progressive. We welcome the much-needed focus upon children aged from birth to three years, school-aged children, and the much-needed contribution towards non-contact time for educators working with children in the early childhood care and education scheme.

However, the measures announced in Budget 2017 will do little to address the crisis in the early childhood care and education sector, which is struggling to attract and retain quality staff. Staff, many of whom hold a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, earn €10 per hour. This equates to an annual salary of €20,280 for an educator working a 39-hour week, all-year round. The situation is even starker for early childhood educators who have no security of tenure, and are laid off during the summer months to claim social welfare parents. While the affordable childcare scheme will be a welcome support for parents when introduced in September 2017, a strategic and targeted investment programme is imperative to stall and prevent the exodus of highly qualified educators from the sector, and to remove them from relative poverty. – Yours, etc,

Dr MARY MOLONEY,

Chairwoman,

Plé,

Limerick.

Sir, – Am I alone in being uneasy about the State providing funding towards a six-month-old spending 40 hours per week in a creche? – Yours, etc,

RONAN TIERNEY,

Enniscorthy,

Co Wexford.

A chara, – Quality childcare is a benefit to families and society. Quality child care is provided in homes, by families, across the country, but this work is not equally valued by the state or Budget 2017. There are direct costs to providing care for children at home, as well as the loss of income (and tax individualisation for single-income households). Parents who are looking after children have extra costs for heat and light as well as having to live on reduced incomes. The cost of accommodation, despite the downturn, means that even double-income families can find it difficult to meet basic living costs. It is quite clear that families on one income (or less) will be under even more pressure following this budget.

Cúram calls on the Government to fund the care of all children equally. This can be done by linking a care payment to each child, a taxable payment which follows the child and is paid to the person or person who cares for the child. – Yours, etc,

ÁINE UÍ­ GHIOLLAGÁIN,

Cúram,

Loughlinstown,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – The biggest winners in the budget are undoubtedly the cigarette smugglers. – Yours, etc,

ROSI O’SULLIVAN,

Dalkey,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – As a charity that works on the frontlines with people who are homeless, Depaul welcomes the tenor of Budget 2017.

By focusing on public expenditure, the Government has shown its awareness of the need for improving social services to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. Depaul welcomes the announcement of €1.2 billion in funding for housing programmes to achieve the goals laid out in Rebuilding Ireland and move towards the delivery of 47,000 social homes by 2021.

We welcome the €105 million increase in funding for the Housing Assistance Payment scheme, which aims to support an additional 15,000 households next year and take 21,000 applicants off the social housing waiting list. We also endorse the announcement of an extra €28 million for emergency accommodation, which is essential to provide shelter for the growing number of people at risk of sleeping rough on our streets.

However, to end homelessness, it is absolutely essential that we focus on long-term housing solutions and work towards a “Housing First” approach to homelessness provision.

In the meantime, we must provide intensive in-reach support to the people who access emergency accommodation, so that they do not become trapped in a cycle of homelessness and dependency that can have devastating life-long consequences. Depaul has been providing an assertive engagement service in our emergency hostels to transition people away from emergency accommodation, and we would call for this type of service to be provided across emergency homeless services.

We wholeheartedly welcome the increase in social welfare payments and the healthcare budget, which will have beneficial knock-on effects in terms of homelessness prevention.

We urge the enhancement of community-based prevention services for people at risk of mental health issues and addiction, and an increase in healthcare services for vulnerable groups.

Depaul has seen great outcomes from our nursing health initiative, which provides primary healthcare services for the residents of our homeless services, and we would call for more specialised services like this which deliver person-centred care to individuals based on their specific needs. In order to truly build a fair and just society, it is critical that we deliver the funding pledged in Budget 2017 in as co-ordinated and holistic way as possible, focussing on those who are most in need and aiming for long-term benefits. – Yours, etc,

KERRY ANTHONY,

Chief Executive,

Depaul,

Nicholas Street, Dublin 8.

Sir, – Regarding the budget announcement, rather than asking “What’s in it for me?” why don’t people ask “What’s in it for the poor, the elderly, the sick and the disadvantaged?” – Yours, etc,

ALAN KEEGAN,

Raheny,

Dublin 5.