Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, has outlined where the €20.5bn social welfare package will be spent next year.
The key features of the spending, which includes €361.6m in additional social welfare expenditure, are listed at the end of the article.
It provides for an increase in all weekly social welfare payments and is focused on improving the economic and social well-being of children and families, according to the department.
Minister Doherty said: “Today’s Budget announcement demonstrates this Government’s commitment to both restoring and maintaining the real value of core welfare payment rates.
"That is why we once again increased all core weekly payment rates by €5 and, crucially, focused the changes over and above this on families with children.”
Announced today were increased weekly payments for each qualified child as well as a €25 increase in Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.
In addition, working Lone Parents receiving One-Parent Family Payment and Jobseeker’s Transitional Payments can now earn an extra €20 per week, up to €150, and keep their full payment.
The Daily Expenses Allowance, formerly the Direct Provision Allowance, paid to people seeking asylum will also rise by €17.20 to €38.80 per week for adults and by €8.20 to €29.80 per week for each child.
The Minister said: “Working parents who each day strive to balance the needs of their families and the demands of their workplaces make an immense contribution to Irish society and the Irish economy. The social welfare changes in this Budget recognise these important roles, as well as the additional challenges faced by lone parents.”
“The increase in the qualified child rates and the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance combined with changes to assessments for lone parent and working family payments will target resources to those families which need assistance the most.”
The Minister also mentioned that she was introducing a new Hot School Meals Pilot Programme for DEIS schools to commence in 2019.
She said: "Research shows us the value of the provision of adequate and nutritious meals for a child’s health, learning, attention and educational achievement. That is why I am providing funds to establish a pilot programme for a hot meals scheme in schools.
"If successful, I would hope to work with the Department of Education and Skills in extending the scheme on a much wider basis in future years and establish the scheme on a permanent basis.”
Two weeks of paid Parental Leave per parent were also announced in the Budget.
Ms Doherty said: “Today, working with the Department of Justice and Equality, I am happy to announce that my Department will introduce this scheme in late 2019.
"Both parents will have access to two weeks’ each of this benefit which will be paid at the same rate as Maternity Benefit and Paternity Benefit which will be €245 per week.
"I am particularly pleased that this measure recognises the need to incentivise fathers to take more time off work to care for their children than has been the case up to now.
"It is our intention to incrementally increase this to up to seven weeks parental leave over the next few years.”
The Minister also announced the extension of access to Jobseeker’s Benefit to self-employed people.
It is expected that some 6,500 people will become eligible in the first full year of operation of this scheme which will be introduced in late 2019.
Announcing the changes to weekly social welfare payments and supports for the low waged, the Minister said: “I am delighted to have secured a €5 increase for the 1.47 million people in receipt of weekly social welfare payments, including pensioners, widows, carers and people with disabilities, lone parents, jobseekers and people participating on Community Employment schemes.
“This morning, I secured Government approval for the payment of the social welfare Christmas Bonus, at a rate of 100%. Paid in early December, this will benefit all recipients of long-term social welfare payments including carers, people with disabilities, pensioners, and lone parents.”
Also, the Fuel Allowance season is again being extended by a week to 28 weeks and it will apply at the end of the current season.
Additional funding of €10m is also being provided to support the Free TV licence and Free Travel services.
- Digital Desk