Budget: Benefits savings will not go to health

Department of Social Protection refuses funds to Department of Health in budget

Minister for Health Simon Harris: has yet to agree a final budgetary figure. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Health Simon Harris: has yet to agree a final budgetary figure. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


The Department of Social Protection has refused a request to divert savings from falling unemployment payments to aid the Department of Health.

Money from Live Register savings were sought during budget negotiations and asked to be directed to the Department of Health, The Irish Times has learned.

However, Department of Social Protection officials declined, insisting it had its own demographic pressures.

The Department of Health has secured €13.5 billion for its budget for 2017 but is seeking additional funds to meet the commitments made in the programme for partnership. Additional money is being sought to address long waiting lists, additional homecare packages and for the introduction of the national obesity strategy.

However, Minister for Health Simon Harris has yet to agree a final budgetary figure with Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe.

State pension

The Department of Social Protection has been heavily relied upon by the Department of Health in the past when seeking additional budgetary funds.

Officials in the department have insisted they cannot assist this year due to the increase in people claiming the State pension and the expanding cost of the payment.

Meanwhile, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has confirmed that he is examining ways to assist carers and lone parents in next week’s budget.

Mr Varadkar said certain sections of society had been neglected in the discussions but he wanted to find ways to assist lone parents back to education and to assist carers.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, he said the final details of his proposals may not be secured until early next week.

He said there were many competing demands within his department and those with disabilities, carers and lone parents had been neglected in the budgetary conversations to date.

Final figures

The Irish Times has also learned that the department will not fully reintroduce the Christmas bonus. Mr Varadkar has sought funds for an increase in the payment, which is paid to over one million people ever year. However it is understood there will not be a 100 per cent return of the bonus, which was stopped during the recession but restored to a 75 per cent payment last year.

The Government is eager to ensure the final budgetary figures for each department are agreed by Thursday to allow for the publication of the White Paper on Friday evening.

Exchequer returns to be published today will show tax revenues have fallen behind expectation in July and August.

Poor VAT returns in July and weak income tax receipts in August have contributed to the poor returns.

However, the September figures are expected to be broadly on target for the month.