Caitríona Redmond: 'Shrugging emoji' summed up reaction to Budget measures in my Whatsapp group

Budget 2023 might help some back from the brink, but it won’t be enough for them all
Caitríona Redmond: 'Shrugging emoji' summed up reaction to Budget measures in my Whatsapp group

 Fianna Fail Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath and Fine Gael Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. 

After weeks of speculation and kite flying, the Budget announcement was awaited with bated breath in many fearful households. So what is in the Budget, really, for the average family?

Some highlights include:

  •  €600 in electricity credits split into 3 installments of €200 each; 1 before Christmas and 2 afterward 
  •  Double child benefit payment for all in November. So in November rather than getting €140 per child, we will receive €280.
  •  Once-off reduction in college fees this year of €1,000 with a new permanent reduction in September 2023 of €500.
  •  25% reduction in the weekly fee for those participating in the National Childcare Scheme (remember this is payable to registered childcare providers for children aged between 2-15 years) and it’s not just payable to creches.
  • Free schoolbooks for primary school children have been confirmed.
  •  An increase of social welfare benefit payments of €12 plus qualified child and adult increases.
  •  An increase in the entry threshold for Working Family Payment (formerly known as Family Income Supplement).
  •  Exceptional payments for many vulnerable groups such as those receiving the carers support grant, pensioners, and people in receipt of the working family payment.
  •  An increase in the cut-off rate at which we pay 40% income tax to €40,000 per annum.
  •  USC rate band of 2% increased to reflect increases in the minimum wage.
  •  Slight increase in main tax credits of €75.

How soon will all the changes happen?

The exceptional payments all seem to be gathered together in November. While the exact dates of some have yet to be confirmed, the double child benefit payment of €280 per child will be sent on November 1, 2022, this is the first Tuesday of the month and the day that child benefit is traditionally paid.

Changes to core social welfare benefits and allowances won’t be implemented until January 2023, nor will the higher rates on the National Childcare Scheme.

It all seems fairly clear, doesn’t it?

There are still some things that need clarification, such as how the free primary schoolbooks scheme will be implemented. Will it take the form of a free schoolbook rental scheme and will we still have to buy workbooks (often the more expensive portion of the bill each year)?

Will raising the entry threshold for Working Family Payment give families already signed up an increased weekly payment in January? 

Traditionally once you are awarded the scheme, your payment is fixed for a period of 12 months. However, those who are in receipt at the moment can expect an exceptional payment of €500 this November.

Some of these items won’t be clarified for a number of days or weeks as the relevant departments work their way through the technicalities.

An awful lot of the speeches focused on the strength of the government’s ‘once-off’ measures. The big exceptional payments are to happen within the next two months and they are to be welcomed. However, what happens if we continue to come under pressure from cost of living increases? We are all aware that energy costs are continuing to rise and the news this week of damage to the Nord Stream pipelines will make fuel markets even more prone to rising. There’s also the question of another imminent ECB rate rise in October.

There were very few surprises for families in Budget 2023 which had been lauded as a ‘giveaway’, and while it’s clear that there will be additional payments and exceptional payments made to many families and people in need, it's unlikely to meet the cost of living increases we are all facing. 

We are better off now

One thing's for sure; we are better off than we would have been without Budget 2023. But with the cost of living continuing to rise, plus spiking energy prices and what looks like some consecutive mortgage interest rate rises, there is little solace in the payments.

This week I totted up how much extra I am paying to meet all rising costs on a weekly basis. It came to a grand total of €118 per week more than this time last year. That’s a lot of money that can’t be matched by the Budget announcements.

“It’ll help a bit I suppose,Q said one member of a family carers group that I’m a member of. They followed that statement with a shrugging emoji which summed it up.

I know how they feel. A bit of help is an awful lot less than families need. We have a very difficult winter ahead. For my family, this supposed giveaway budget isn’t even going to come close to making a dent in the cost of living increases we face.

Families will still go without this winter. Budget 2023 might help some back from the brink and from making the difficult choice between food and fuel, but it won’t be enough for them all.

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