Budget: Extra five million home-care hours to keep people living in communities

Health, housing, and green initiatives will be prioritised in budget 
Budget: Extra five million home-care hours to keep people living in communities

The number of hours allocated as part of home-care packages is to increase by around a quarter,  from 19m hours to around 24m hours next year.

An extra 5m home-care hours are to be provided as part of Budget 2021, to help people to stay living in their communities.

Health, housing, and green initiatives will be prioritised in Tuesday's budget, with an extra €500m being added to the overall housing allocation.

Investment in greenways across the country is to more than double in the budget, as part of a suite of measures to both promote the green economy and support the tourism industry.

Funding for greenway routes is to increase to around €50m as part of a €350m overall package for cycling and walking.

The hospitality industry is also expected to get a welcome reprieve with a cut in the Vat rate from 13.5% to 9%.

Meanwhile, the number of hours allocated as part of home-care packages is to increase by around a quarter, up from 19m hours to around 24m hours next year.

Education Minister Norma Foley has secured 2,000 additional posts and a 5% increase in core expenditure in her department.

This increased number of staff includes around 990 extra special-needs assistants (SNAs); 400 more special-education teachers; and approximately 600 mainstream teachers across primary and secondary schools.

A Christmas bonus for 400,000 people in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) and jobseeker's payment is also expected to be included in tomorrow's announcement.

The move to give the Christmas bonus to those on PUP could cost up €500m, compared to €279m last year. However, it would provide a boost to struggling retailers and businesses in the lead-up to Christmas.

A cut-off date would also apply, so people would have to be in receipt of PUP for a certain period of time before they would qualify for the bonus payment.

It is widely expected that the PUP qualification requirements will be changed to allow the self-employed to earn up to €480 a month and still claim the support.

Three weeks' optional paid parental leave on top of the two weeks that was granted last year is also being considered.

However, little movement is expected in relation to childcare or the early childhood care and education (ECCE) scheme.

Businesses will welcome an extension to the commercial rates waiver into next year.

Sources indicate that the waiver could be applied as far as April 1, though there are concerns about the cost of plugging this funding gap for local authorities, which are beginning to face serious deficits due to a collapse in funding and income.

There has also been speculation around a wider Covid-19 recovery fund, but it is unlikely that the full details of such a scheme will be announced tomorrow.

SME Recovery Ireland estimates that there are more than 800,000 workers employed in the domestic sector who are not supported by a State agency, and called for the establishment of a national agency for small business, overseen by a dedicated minister.

Chair of SME Recovery Ireland, John Moran, said: “We fully recognise the important role that IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland play in supporting over 420,000 people working in small enterprises that have an inward investment or export element to their business. 

"However, a significant support gap remains for the thousands of small businesses who operate solely within the domestic economy. We would like to see a new dedicated agency for small business established that would bring together the State’s programmes and work in the indigenous SME space, filling the gap that currently exists between inward investment and export-oriented companies."

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