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Have kids? Here's what Budget 2018 means for parents

An increase to some child benefits, investment in the State’s free childcare scheme and more teachers are among the changes.

IF YOU HAVE a child, or children, here are the measures that were announced in the Budget that matter to you.

In short, there have been increases in some child benefits, teacher numbers, and special needs assistant posts, as well as investments in Tusla, arts initiatives and the National Children’s Hospital.

So here’s how things have shifted slightly for children and young adults – and their parents.

Childcare

An additional €20 million will be allocated towards supporting childcare measures, including the extended free pre-school programme. This means there will be a full two-year service available from September 2018.

A universal childcare payment for the under threes will continue in 2018.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said that this would benefit 20,000 three- to four-year-olds.

Child benefit payments

  • There’s been an increase in the earnings disregard for the One Parent Family Payment and the Jobseekers’ Transitional scheme of €20 per week
  • An increase in the threshold for receipt of the Family Income Supplement by €10 per week for families with up to three children
  • An increase in the Home Carer Credit of €100, which is now worth €1,200 per year
  • An increase in the weekly rate of the qualified child payment by €2 per week

Fergus Finlay of children’s charity Barnardos said that “the meagre increase of €2 in the Qualified Child Increase will do little to address child poverty”.

It won’t even cover the cost of a loaf of bread and litre of milk. Funds would have been better spent committed to a substantial increase in the QCI rate for over 12s recognising the increased cost of raising a teenager.

These measures will come into effect in the last week of March 2018.

shutterstock_635263688 Source: Anna Grigorjeva via Shutterstock

Education

Education spending for 2018 was increased to €10 billion, which Paschal Donohoe said was “a new peak for the sector and 16.6% of total expenditure”.

There will be almost 1,300 additional teachers in 2018, and as part of this the pupil teacher ratio at primary level will be reduced to 26:1.

The increase in teachers plus additional career guidance counsellors is estimated to cost €46 million.

“Pupil-teacher ratio at primary level will be lowest it’s ever been at 26:1,” one Fianna Fáil TD told TheJournal.ie.

“This was surprisingly hard-fought for in the negotiations. Third level also sees a big boost and there are even more guidance counsellors.”

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation also welcomed the change, saying that around 100,000 pupils in Ireland are in “supersized classes of 30 or more”, and are well above the EU average of 20.

shutterstock_388588453 Source: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

But the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) said that it was “disappointing” not to see the same efforts to tackle the student-lecturer ratio at third level education.

But both the IFUT and the National Youth Council of Ireland welcomed the “small increase” in the national training fund levy, from 0.7% to 0.8%, which will provide “€47.5m of additional higher/further education investment”.

Over €1.7 billion for special education needs in the coming year in order to hire over 1,000 additional Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in time for September 2018. This will bring the total number of SNAs to over 15,000.

Jobs

James Doorley, deputy director of the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) said that it was disappointing to see the lower rate of jobseekers allowance being kept for those aged between 18-25.

It also wants long-term youth unemployment addressed.

Tusla and healthcare

“To ensure we have the ability to help our most vulnerable children and families,” Donohoe told the Dáil this afternoon, “the allocation to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency will be increased by over €40 million, bringing its total allocation to just under €754 million.”

Among the areas that the funding will go towards, is providing for further investment and development of a “family resource centres network” (a highlight that Zappone mentioned in the Twitter video above).

An additional €120 million in funding will be spent next year on healthcare infrastructure, which in part will go towards the development of the National Children’s Hospital project and a range of other investments in primary and community care schemes.

Among the general measures that will benefit parents and children, is the well-flagged sugar tax, and the 50 cent reduction in prescription charges for all medical card holders under 70.

As today is National Mental Health day, the NYCI said that it is “waiting for news on increased investment in mental health from the Department of Health”.

Arts

A funding boost of €9 million to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will benefit the Arts Council, the Irish Film Board, Culture Ireland, the National Cultural Institutions and the Creative Children initiative.

Liveblog: A sugar tax, €5 extra for welfare, and a huge plan for housing as Budget 2018 is revealed

Budget 2018: Here are the main points you need to know

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