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Budget increases welcomed but public investment needs to be prioritised

Budget increases welcomed but public investment needs to be prioritised over any tax cuts for the foreseeable future

The 3:1 ratio of investment in services, particularly in Education, Health and Social Protection, to tax cuts has been welcomed by the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP).

The Society strongly welcomes the increase in investment in Early Childhood Care and Education and the universal and targeted measures, which were announced in today’s budget.

Low-income families who are struggling to afford childcare and afterschool costs will benefit from this new scheme.

SVP also welcome the €5 per week increase in the full weekly social welfare payment which goes some way to restoring the purchasing power of these payments, and the further partial restoration of the Christmas Bonus as a vital support to families at an expensive time of year.  The improved income disregard from €90 to €110 per week and the reinstated cost of education allowance will benefit lone parents in work and education are also positive developments.

Regarding the under 25s, the restoration of the Back to Education Allowance to the full rate is welcome as are the reductions in rent supplement contributions from this group, many of whom are particularly at risk of homelessness.

However, SVP believes that because homelessness and housing need is so acute, the scale of the problem requires key quick wins combined with a scale of funding and delivery of social housing units unseen in Ireland for generations. Social Housing levels are way below what is required and SVP is concerned that, in the absence of a Strategy for the Private Rental Sector, the Housing Plan Rebuilding Ireland is over-reliant on HAP and private rented accommodation.

"We need a fundamental increase in social Housing units to avoid high rents, cold, damp homes and economic evictions in the Private Rented Sector." said John-Mark McCafferty, SVP Head of social Justice & Policy.

He went on to say that while most of the changes announced today are welcome, it was the transformative policies of Early Childhood Care and Education; social housing provision; and energy retrofitting of homes that would empower people and break the cycle of disadvantage. These areas would, however, require significantly greater investment over the longer term – and this was dependent on public investment being prioritised over any tax cuts for the foreseeable future.

Other areas in Budget 2017 which SVP says are to be welcomed are the reduction in prescription charges and the return of dental & optical benefits under PRSI.

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