Budget 2019: ‘It does nothing to address the crisis out there’

Housing, health, property and environmental groups react to the budget

Simon Community’s Niamh Randall said “it would have been nice to see more measures to address affordability and security of tenure for tenants”. File photograph: The Irish Times

Simon Community’s Niamh Randall said “it would have been nice to see more measures to address affordability and security of tenure for tenants”. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

A number of organisations from health to housing to environmental groups have reacted to Tuesday’s budget with some calling it “very disappointing” and “tame” while others have given it a cautious welcome.

Delivering the budget in the Dáil on Tuesday, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said it was a “caring budget” and that “it helps those on lower and middle incomes. It improves living standards for those less well off. It balances the books. It builds resilience on our economy and supports long term growth.”

Mr Donohoe allocated an extra €30 million for homelessness services (bringing to €146 million the total for 2019); €60 million extra in capital funding for additional emergency accommodation and €1.25 billion for the delivery of 10,000 new social homes in 2019.

The Simon Community said it was “disappointed” that there was no measure to address the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), the limits of which, it said, are too low. The organisation’s head of policy and communications Niamh Randall said “it would have been nice to see more measures to address affordability and security of tenure for tenants. It’s hard to tell what’s new and what’s an existing commitment. But we welcome talk about affordable housing, but it’s a pity that it’s limited to home ownership.”

The national representative body for private landlords, the Irish Property Owners Association, cautiously welcomed the budget announcement restoring mortgage interest relief to 100 per cent as of January 2019.

“We have repeatedly told the Government that providing private rental property is a business,” the organisation’s chairman, Stephen Faughnan said.

“Like every normal business, landlords have to cover costs and make it worthwhile to continue. I hope this small start will represent a real decision to make it possible for landlords to continue playing a full part in providing quality and affordable accommodation to the 20 per cent of the population living in rental properties.”

Welfare

The Society of St Vincent de Paul said that the budget contains “some positive developments” but that challenges remain in housing, education and childcare.

“While many of the measures announced today will help families who are struggling, much remains to be done in the areas of education, housing and childcare so that individuals and families can get out and stay out of poverty,” SVP national president Kieran Stafford said.

He welcomed the increase of the Christmas bonus payment which has been restored to a double payment for the first time since the crash. Mr Stafford said the increase in the rate of the qualified child increase in addition to the higher rate of social welfare “will make a difference to the families we assist and those who are struggling to get by every week”.

Children’s charity Barnardos said the budget showed “some efforts to tackle child poverty through much needed social welfare changes but failed to deliver the ambition and vision required to meet its own target of lifting 100,000 children out of consistent poverty by 2020.”

Head of advocacy with the charity Julie Tinsley said additional help for “families accessing childcare, greater capitation funding for schools, further parental leave and increases in social welfare payments are all welcome. However, whether these measures and others will fully address the thousands of children who are homeless; or waiting months and even years to receive vital healthcare; or adequately support families living with disadvantage remains to be seen.”

Health

The Minister announced a further increase of €1.05 billion in health funding for 2019, bringing that department’s total budget to €17 billion. The home carer tax credit is increasing by €300 to €1,500 and the earned income tax credit for the self employed is up by €200 to €1,500.

The Carers’ Association said the budget was “not a caring” one.

Head of communications Catherine Cox said the budget “does nothing to address the crisis out there. Money that allocated to health is like putting money into a leaking bucket. There is nothing in this budget to address the concerns of carers.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said it welcomed the extra investment in the public health service, but that the recruitment and retention crisis needs to be tackled. “With over 500 patients waiting on trolleys today, the health service is unable to cope,” general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said. “Years of underinvestment have taken their toll, so today’s extra funding is welcome and much needed.”

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) which represents the research-based pharmaceutical industry has said it is “very disappointing” that enough money could not be found in the expanded allocation for health to cover the costs of making “new innovative medicines available to patients”.

CEO of IPHA Oliver O’Connor said, “it shows the deep inequality at the heart of health spending in Ireland, and a distinct lack of planning for new treatments pharmaceutical innovators are offering to the market. Ireland remains among the slowest countries in western Europe for access to innovative medicines.

Elderly

Age Action described the budget as “tame”. Interim CEO Anna McCabe said she was “disappointed there was no home package for the elderly”. She cautiously welcomed the increase in the Christmas bonus payment and the €5 increase in welfare payment but noted there was no mention of an increase for the fuel allowance.

Farming

Macra na Feirme said the budget is an example of “thinking within the box” but said there were “some positive developments” for young farmers. A spokesman for the rural youth organisation said, “We welcome the introduction of young trained farmer stamp duty relief and young trained farmer stock relief.

“In addition, with the challenges of Brexit very much at the forefront of our minds, the additional €60 million for Brexit-related supports to improve resilience in the farm sector is very much needed and welcomed.”

Environment

The Government resisted calls to increase carbon tax despite a recommendation by the Climate Change Advisory Council to push up tax by €30 per tonne. Director of environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, Oisín Coughlan said, “the Government’s u-turn on the carbon tax is a giant two-fingers to younger generations who will face climate chaos unless we act to drastically cut pollution.

“The carbon tax is not a silver bullet. It is essential but not sufficient. But it does incentivise every other investment decision towards cleaner, less polluting options. And it can be done without penalising rural households or lower income families.”

Chair of the advisory council Prof John FitzGerald said that carbon tax in Ireland was insufficient to achieve the national climate change objectives. “Any increase in carbon taxation should be accompanied by measures to address negative impacts on poorer households,” he said. “Carbon tax is a key component of transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy.” –Additional reporting PA