Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Budget 2020: Statements
Senator Wilson and I go back 35 years ago and I have definitely mellowed since, as the Senator has. There are challenges but I wonder where the people speaking from the floor this evening were when the budget package of 1,000 extra therapists and 1 million hours of home care supports were announced. There is to be a 50 cent reduction in the prescription charge and a €10 reduction in the monthly threshold of the drugs payment scheme. There are 56,000 more people who are over 70 now eligible for medical cards and there will be an additional €5 million for respite care. That is in a budget that is supposed to be bad. If we did not spend anything we would have a surplus of €1.2 billion but we must borrow to protect our country and our people.
To some people the process may be akin to writing to Santa Claus but Senator Devine should know we live in the real world. The extra €143 million for housing has not been acknowledged by Members in the House tonight. There is €172.2 million for a social welfare package that has not been mentioned by Members in the House tonight. The extra €281 million allocated to health has not been acknowledged by Members in the House tonight. We now have the largest budget ever for health. The Christmas bonus has been restored to 100% and the jobseeker's allowance payment for young people up to 25 years old has been restored to €203. Not a word has been said about that.
I welcome the extension to the first-time buyers' help-to-buy scheme, and it is very important that we continue to allow people to buy their own homes. It is an important scheme and its influence on our economy is understated. I also welcome the increase in the living alone allowance and the living cities initiative. It is an important catalyst in many of our urban areas that should stipulated as an important part of city and council budgets. In Cork we must look at Barrack Street and the south inner city, where we can create a new impetus and a new area in which to live that can regenerate, revitalise and gentrify the city. I speak specifically of the Barrack Street area heading to Douglas Street, where there has been much work done by traders and residents in recent years. We can get people back into the city again. I very much welcome the extension of that important scheme. As Senator O'Donnell stated, it may need to be tweaked a little in the Finance Bill.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of State indicated that we are seeking to manage risk for our nation while aiming to make progress. We should remember where we were eight years ago when we look at where we are tonight.