Budget 2022: Last-minute talks for 1,000 special needs assistants and 400 teachers

Discussions over winter fuel scheme ongoing, with expansion of Deis scheme close

A last-minute budget deal for 1,000 special needs assistants and more than 400 special education teachers was close to being finalised last night, with talks over the winter fuel allowance ongoing.

A "significant" expansion of the Deis scheme was also in prospect, with Minister for Education Norma Foley said to have gone "hammer and tongs" with her party colleague, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, in talks also involving Minister of State Josepha Madigan.

Amid a renewed focus on energy costs this winter, talks yesterday focused on restructuring the fuel allowance with the proceeds of climbing carbon taxes. There were concerns the payment risked being seen as too low and a desire to expand the scheme so more people could access it. The winter fuel season is not going to be extended beyond the current 28 weeks but the payment will go up, sources said.

With Covid-19 pandemic spending set to tumble, the Government is finalising a budget targeting quality of life issues and access to services. The Department of Health is set to receive less than €1 billion in direct Covid-19 funding next year, down from €2 billion in Budget 2021.


About half of a total Covid-19 spending package of €6.8 billion will be held back as a contingency fund. The renewed focus on medical waiting lists will see a funding package of more than €200 million mobilised to tackle backlogs.

Hundreds of millions have been approved for increases in social welfare payments, energy retrofit and other projects – although fears remain over labour shortages which could endanger health, housing and climate targets.

More than €200 million is set to be earmarked for retrofitting in excess of 20,000 homes, with half to be spent on 4,500 free home upgrades for low-income or energy-poverty households. The remainder will be given in grants. Some €360 million will go on active travel measures.

Mr McGrath indicated yesterday he would resist a “splurge” in tomorrow’s budget, despite a “quite dramatic” turnaround leaving the exchequer deficit €7 billion lower than anticipated. Unspent funds left over from this year will be diverted into measures to be announced on budget day, including a likely extension of the local authority rates waiver.

A key element of Budget 2022 will be a childcare package costing €100 million next year, rising to €200 million annually once ramped up, which will seek to freeze fees for many parents and expand access to subsidies for working families and unemployed people.

Income limits are likely to be raised for access to the National Childcare Scheme, while childcare hours available to unemployed people will be expanded beyond the current 20 hours a week cap.

Welfare payments

Hundreds of millions will be spent on increases in core social welfare payments, with €5 added to weekly working age payments and the pension, but a €10 pension increase has been ruled out.

The budget package will be supplemented by measures funded by unspent allocations from this year, including the extension of the rates waiver on a targeted basis. The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme is also set to be extended beyond its current finishing date of December 1st, but it will be reformed.

As agreed in the programme for government, tax and credit bands will rise in line with inflation, with the Government aiming to improve take-home pay and enabling those who get a raise to keep 70-80 per cent of it.

Spending on a women’s health package will quadruple to €20 million, while the Department of Health will be allowed to retain some of its underspend to fund more staff increases. Cigarettes are expected to go up by 50 cent per packet.

A €100 million recovery package for the tourism sector is planned, focused on sustainable recovery, festivals and nightlife activities. The Department of Tourism will also target UK and US visitors with flagship events such as an American Football College game.

Extra funding for more Gardaí was also expected, as with a revamped land tax planned for land zoned for homes, and more than €600 million for housing. An extension to the Help to Buy scheme was expected, as well as an increase in the Susi student grant for the first time in ten years.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times