Budget 2022 will tackle the cost of living for families with a record €716 million investment in childcare, as well as the extension of a range of housing, health, education and welfare supports, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Mary Seery-Kearney, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Children said, “Fine Gael is focused on assisting families with financial pressures through a range of measures targeted specifically at parents and children. Today’s Budget package of €4.7 billion includes the freezing of childcare fees, free GP care for all children 7 and under, extra parental leave as well as an increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.
“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 National Childcare Scheme (NSC) universal subsidy will be extended to all children under 15 from September 2022, benefitting up to 40,000 children.
“Also included is the provision to remove the practice of deducting hours spent in pre-school or school from the entitlement to NCS subsidised hours which will benefit an estimated 5,000 children from low income families at a cost of €4 million – this will particularly address the anomaly and unintended consequence that caused hardship to children in disadvantaged communities and will restore their entitlement to afterschool care.
“Along with childcare, housing remains an issue of concern for families with many looking to own their own home and provide security for their children. The Help to Buy scheme, which has already helped over 28,300 people previously locked out of the property market to own their first home, will be extended for another year.
“A range of supports from the Department of Social Protection will also help families. Parents will feel the benefit of Budget 2022 next September as children return to school, with a €10 increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance by June of next year. The duration of Parents’ Benefit, introduced under a Fine Gael led Government in 2019, will increase; parents will receive an extra two weeks’ time off as leave rises to seven weeks from July 2022. The income threshold to receive the Working Family Payment will also be increased by €10 for all families.
“Children aged 6 and 7 years old will now also benefit from free GP care, with the intention of extending this to all children up to the age of 12. The financial burden of hospital charges for children under 18 will also be reduced.
“An additional 980 special education teachers will be hired, alongside an unprecedented 1,165 new SNAs, bringing the total number of SNAs in Ireland to a record 19,169. This will bring investment in special education to the highest level in history.
“This is a Budget for parents and children. It will help families with the high cost of living and critically, it will tackle rising childcare costs, which I know will come as a great relief to many families across the country,” concluded Senator Seery-Kearney.