Pensioners and parents can expect a budget boost

Childcare costs a ‘top priority’ as Ministers work to finalise budget details

The Tánaiste says he cannot confirm what will or won’t not be included in the budget at this stage as ‘there are still some decisions being made’. Photograph: iStock

The Tánaiste says he cannot confirm what will or won’t not be included in the budget at this stage as ‘there are still some decisions being made’. Photograph: iStock

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Measures to help families with the cost of childcare and a €5 increase in the State pension are being considered as Ministers work to finalise the details of the budget.

Senior Government figures have long flagged that €1 billion in new spending measures will focus on efforts to counter the rising cost of living.

And parents of creche-going children and pensioners are in line to see a boost as part of that strategy.

Backbench Coalition TDs have been pressing for enhanced childcare supports and an increase in the State pension, with some suggesting the latter should be increased by as much as €10 a week.

The Irish Times understands the more likely sum will be €5 a week.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar offered the strongest signal yet that both issues are being examined ahead of Tuesday’s political set piece.

Mr Varadkar said he could not confirm what would or would not be included in the budget at this stage as “there are still some decisions being made”.

However, he said: “One of the things, of course, we are going to examine in the context of the budget is the cost of childcare.

“We have made some progress in that regard… in recent years with the two full years of ECCE [Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme] and the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme [NCS].

“But it is still the case that for many people, childcare is like paying two mortgages or like having to pay the rent twice every week.”

The Tánaiste said from an enterprise and employment point of view, childcare costs were a barrier to people returning to the workplace.

“We have skills shortage across the economy and many women, particularly women but not exclusively women, can’t get back into the workplace because of the cost of childcare so it is something that the Government will address in the years ahead,” he said.

Sources said childcare was a “top priority” as Ministers work to finalise the budget.

Subsidies

Under the NCS, there are universal subsidies of up to €22.50 a week or higher, means-tested supports for families on lower incomes.

Changes to the NCS scheme are being examined as well as the issues of the low pay for staff and the sustainability of childcare providers’ businesses.

Earlier this week Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman – speaking in the context of access to childcare for disadvantaged families – said he hoped to introduce changes to the NCS next year.

On welfare measures Mr Varadkar said a big part of the additional €1 billion spend “will be taken up by the pensions and welfare package and it needs to be because of the rising cost of living”.

“We need to see pensioners and others getting an increase, they haven’t got that since 2019,” he said.

“I suppose that means money for other new measures is relatively limited.”

Mr Varadkar added: “One of the things we are working towards in the context of the budget is an aviation package, that’s one of the things we need to do to get international tourists back to Ireland.

“I think where you will see a big move is on aviation supports, to get those routes back into Shannon, back into Cork and Dublin.”

Tuesday’s budget package is expected to amount to €4.7 billion, of which €1 billion is said to be available for new spending and €500 million is for tax measures.

Mica redress

The owners of mica-damaged homes will have to wait some weeks longer for details of a proposed redress scheme.

Thousands of mica protesters marched through Dublin on Friday demanding a scheme that will cover 100 per cent of their costs.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed that the redress scheme would not be ready for budget day but would be “shortly after that”.

He said there would be “enormous resources” required to deal with the issue that he described as “appalling” for residents and homeowners.

“We want to arrive at a comprehensive solution for the homeowners and it will take some weeks to put that together and to work out the implementation of that,” Mr Martin added.

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