Wednesday, 28 September 2022
Financial Resolutions 2022 - Financial Resolution No. 6: General: Financial Resolution (Resumed)
Emer Higgins (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source
Despite the challenges people are facing with the cost-of-living crisis, the feedback I have been receiving on the budget has been positive. That is because people, from our children to our older people, are getting the help they need and deserve. Before the summer I surveyed 500 of my constituents across Clondalkin, Lucan, Palmerston, Newcastle, Rathcoole, Saggart and Brittas and I asked them what they wanted the Government to prioritise in the budget. Unsurprisingly, their top five priorities were health, housing, energy costs, tax cuts for the squeezed middle and childcare. I presented their feedback directly to the Minister for Finance and I am so glad it was used to help shape this budget because there has been investment, including record investment in many cases, to reduce the cost of healthcare, build more homes, help first-time buyers, help with the rising cost of energy bills, cut tax for the squeezed middle, and significantly reduce the cost of childcare. In short, the budget has been about putting money back in people's pockets.
I am also pleased that the budget invests in women. It does that by expanding free contraception to 16- to 30-year-olds, removing the VAT on period products such as menstrual cups and period underwear, increasing access to hormone replacement therapy, HRT, by reducing its cost, and creating more women's health hubs to improve gynaecology care for women with endometriosis and going through the menopause.
Crucially, it provides a budget for the first time ever to support publicly funded IVF, which will be life-changing for couples across this country. This is also a budget that puts young people and students front and centre through reduced third level fees, double payments of SUSI grants, a €500 reduction on fees for middle-income families sending kids to college, the creation of more opportunities for apprenticeships and the extension of the youth card for public transport at half price. We have also seen free school books for primary schools, more subsidies towards early education and afterschool care and extra funding for school buildings that is badly needed in my constituency and special needs education supports such as SNAs.
Energy credits and the tax credits for renters are extra measures that have been broadly welcomed by people who have contacted me. I am glad that these, along with the increase in the threshold for the higher tax bracket, will help the squeezed middle in my area. We have seen a €12 increase in core social welfare rates, greater access to the fuel allowance, an increase in the working family payment, double child benefit, a once-off double week of cost-of-living support for everyone on social welfare, pensioners, carers and people on disability and jobseeker's payments.
This is an extremely challenging time for many families and businesses. I know the financial strain that households are experiencing in their budgets is a major concern and worry for people. I hope this budget helps put people's minds at ease because it puts more money back in people's pockets.