Thursday, 29 September 2022
Financial Resolutions 2022 - Financial Resolution No. 6: General (Resumed)
I am happy that Deputy Cahill got those phone calls in the first ten or 12 hours because, since then, listening to our local radio station, Tipp FM, there is a great deal of disquiet among our constituents in Tipperary about the gaps that are left by this budget and the number of people who will fall through them. A budget of this size should have given people certainty that they will be able to meet the challenges as we go through the winter. However, to fill the gaps in our public service, the chance is gone. There is no long-term plan in this budget, just a series of once-off measures that leave cohorts of people on the sidelines. Many fixed-income working people are also being left on the sidelines. That is what is coming across on the radio and in the phone calls we are receiving. Take, for example, the fuel allowance. While we welcome the extension of the fuel allowance, there is no doubt that it is too limited. We argued before about working family payment recipients. They should be included in it but they have been locked out again. Even the cost-of-living support package will only be available to long-term welfare recipients. This potentially locks out those on payments such as illness benefit and newly unemployed people’s jobseeker’s benefit. Will the Minister give us more details on that? Deputy Kerrane also raised this issue.
What was behind the decision to allocate an inadequate €12 increase in respect of pensions and core welfare payments that will immediately be eaten up by inflation? These increases are deferred until January. Deputies across the House made an issue of the cost of living and how people are struggling. Now they are being asked to wait for three months or more before many of these increased payments will commence. That does not make sense. Family carers and older people are being forced to wait until January, all the way through the winter. We all expect the weather to start to pick up from January onwards, yet they have to wait until January to get these increased payments.
In regard to tax, there is no denying that the tax package puts the interests of high earners above those on low and middle incomes. Those earning €130,000 will benefit to the tune of €830, while people earning €35,000 will benefit by just €190. I have been contacted by people on disability or invalidity allowance who are due to transfer to the pension shortly and who may not now be entitled to the lump-sum payment. I would like clarity on that for them. Would they not have been better served with the system and the resources instead of giving it to people who are earning €130,000 or more?
Assistance with the cost of home heating oil was left out of the budget. This, again, disregards many rural households.
In regard to those with disabilities, there is €11.7 million to address the backlogs in accessing assessments of need. I realise that many families are in the situation they are in because after all that has happened in this country, it all comes down now to just addressing the backlogs. There is no forward thinking about what is coming down the road; it is just about addressing the backlogs. It is purely a monetary issue with this Government. It does not deal with the systemic or staffing problems that every one of us knows to be the problem. Mental health services got a mere €14 million extra at a time when Sinn Féin had identified a need for, and would have provided, an additional €81 million.
Long-term housing planning is also lacking. What is happening on the report on social housing threshold which has been sitting on the desk for months?
What planning has the Government done to ensure that GPs can handle the welcome increases in medical card eligibility? Any GPs being interviewed on local or national radio will tell you that this was landed on them with no thinking at all and they can see the problems that this is going to create.
There are no additional hospital beds in the health service.
Where is the energy cost certainty for those businesses which called for a cap on the prices? I could go on.
This budget is a missed opportunity again to make a real difference in people's lives especially when the Government is spending so much money, namely €11 billion, as the Government says itself. I was listening to an economist the other day and he reminded people that €7 billion of that is just to stand still, as there is only just €4 billion to go forward.
As far as Sinn Féin is concerned, the Government has no long-term plan but just a series of sticking plasters and they will fall off very shortly.