Budget 2022 is a positive budget for women, and women’s health in particular. That’s according to the Leader of Seanad Éireann, Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty, who says that better maternity care can be the legacy of increased investment in women’s health.
Senator Doherty said, “Budget 2022 marks a positive step forward for women’s health, building on a number of Fine Gael government commitments for women.
“The Budget contains a dedicated women’s health package worth €31 million, which is really significant.
“This health package will include access to free contraception for women aged 17-25 from next August. The provision of free contraception was a crucial element brought for consideration to the Women’s Health Taskforce established by then Minister for Health, Simon Harris, arising out of the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.
“It was confirmed that the Budget package will also include a further investment in other measures identified by the Women’s Health Taskforce. I would like to see this funding being used to improve our maternity services in particular, for example the provision of better aftercare, including counselling services to ensure better empathy and understanding in maternity care. The report also recommended potentially expanding the role of the public health nurse to enable a focus on the mother and I believe this is something that should be examined.
“The Budget 2022 women’s health package will also help to fund progress regarding the Period Poverty Implementation Group. Minister Frank Feighan recently reconfirmed the Government’s plan to provide free period products, a key Fine Gael commitment in the Programme for Government.
“The package also includes additional funding for sexual assault treatment units, something that will impact women as, unfortunately, the majority of those who experience domestic, sexual and gender-based violence are women.
“The budgetary package will also implement the National Maternity Strategy and the Gynaecology Model of Care, which are crucial to women’s health in this country.
“Addressing the cost of childcare is a top priority for Fine Gael, and this Budget sees the Government putting the necessary financial support in place to reduce the burden on families. It includes a new €69 million scheme to improve the quality of childcare provision while also tackling fees paid by parents. It will help cover increasing childcare operating costs. In return for this State investment, a commitment will be sought from providers not to increase fees paid by parents for early learning and school age childcare.
“The Budget also includes the first major reform of Carer’s Allowance in over a decade, as well as a very welcome expansion of the Domiciliary Care Allowance. Given that six in ten carers are women, these measures will benefit many women who are doing this hugely important and often unseen work.
“To support families, the Budget will increase the duration of Parent’s Benefit by two weeks to seven weeks from July 2022. From June next year, we are also increasing the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance by €10, equalising the income thresholds for that allowance for one and two parent households which will help lone parent families, of which 86.4% are headed by a mother. We are also increasing the income threshold for the Working Family Payment by €10 for all families.
“Fine Gael will continue in its commitment to improving the lives of women and in particularly prioritising women’s healthcare. Budget 2022 marks a really positive step forward in that regard.”