herald

Thursday 5 December 2019

Pensioners set to lose out as €5 top-up finishes after 3 budgets

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will announce measures
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will announce measures

Pensioners will not get a €5 top-up in Budget 2020 as the focus shifts toward families struggling with the cost of living.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will tomorrow reveal details of a series of measures aimed at reducing "out of pocket expenses" for parents.

However, the Herald has learned many of his announcements will not come into effect until well after the general election.

Free GP care for under eights and free dental treatment for under sixes will not kick in until September 2020.

Childcare

Increased subsidies for childcare are not expected until "very late next year", possibly November.

Mr Donohoe is also planning an increase to the €1,500 tax credit given to couples where one parent stays at home to care for a child.

As part of a €130m social welfare package, low-income families with teenagers who receive the qualified child allowance will see an increase on the current rate of €37 a week.

Meanwhile, the Help To Buy scheme, which is worth up to €20,000 for first-time buyers, is to be extended for another year. It was due to end on December 31.

As the final sums are completed today, Mr Donohoe is expected to consider a 50c price hike on a packet of cigarettes.

However, there will be no excise increase for alcohol due to concern about cross-border smuggling after Brexit.

Mr Donohoe spent much of yesterday discussing the Budget plans with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Sources say that while Brexit will be the key theme this year, the Government is keen to put major emphasis on helping families.

It's understood that Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty is to get €150m in 'new money'.

This is down from the €360m extra she received last year and has made across the board social welfare hikes impossible.

Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea has repeatedly insisted a €5 increase to the old-age pension is affordable - but this has now been taken off the table.

For the first time in three budgets, a source confirmed: "It won't feature this year."

Instead, Ms Doherty is to use her allocation to target vulnerable older people and children.

The living alone allowance of €9 a week for older people is to be increased.

The qualified child allowance, paid to low-income families, will increase from €37. The hike will apply to children aged over the age of 12.

Bonus

A Christmas bonus will see all social welfare recipients get a double payment in December.

There will also be an increase in the weekly fuel allowance in order to counterbalance the carbon tax.

Health Minister Simon Harris is to get the biggest budget increase of any department, meaning health spending will hit a new record next year.

Prescription charge fees for the over 70s are to be reduced by 50c, while the maximum a family pays for medicine in a single month will be capped at €114 next year.

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