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"Sickest and the poorest" set to be hit hardest by Budget cuts today

Budget speculation this morning is focused on increased prescription charges, cuts to medical cards and phone allowances for pensioners, and a decrease in dole payments for young unemployed people.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

HOURS BEFORE IT is officially announced, there are increasing concerns that Budget 2014 is set to hit unemployed people, pensioners and people on low incomes the hardest.

Speculation this morning about the Budget is focused on cuts to medical cards and phone allowances for pensioners, increased prescription charges, and a decrease in dole payments for people in their early 20s.

A group representing older people has warned that there will be a lot of “silent suffering” across the country if the changes become reality in today’s Budget.

Eamon Timmins of Age Action Ireland said his group would be most concerned about the “huge hike” in the prescription charge, which was initially set at 50 cent per item and is now at €1.50, but which may be increased to €2.50 in today’s Budget.

“That’s a fivefold increase since it came in three or four years ago… and there’s no evidence that it’s reducing the medication that’s being taken. Instead, it’s being seen as a cash cow, targeted at people who need their medication,” he told RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

He also raised concerns about the abolition of the €114 phone allowance for pensioners and the prospect of almost 35,000 older people losing their full medical card and being given a GP-only card instead.

“At a time when the government is talking about rolling out universal healthcare, they’re giving it to one group of vulnerable people in the community and taking it away from another,” he said.

Looking at what’s being speculated about and reported this morning, it looks like the sickest and the poorest are going to bear the brunt.

The Government has also been criticised over its leaked proposal to cut dole payments for people under 25 who are unemployed, who have already seen their payments reduced in previous Budgets.

Unemployed people aged under 21 currently receive €100 per week, and reports today suggest that this could be extended to all unemployed people aged 24 and under who are new claimants.

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed said that the proposal was “foolish”.

“The realit is that an awful lot of young people have left this country… because they don’t see a future in Ireland,” Breda O’Brien of the INOU told Morning Ireland today. “We need these young people staying in Ireland and working in Ireland… we need them to get Ireland back up off its feet, we need them to generate wealth in Ireland”.

“Sending them a message that ‘sorry, we don’t have something here for you now, will you ever  go off somewhere else’ is not a wise thing to be doing  at all, and it’s a regrettable measure. It’s telling young people who are adults that we don’t regard you as adults,” she said.

Budget 2014 is set to be announced from 2.30pm today.

Read: RTÉ to take €5 million hit as Department of Social Protection cuts free TV licences payment >

Read: How recessionary budgets have changed Ireland… >

Read: There may be trouble ahead with extra garda units on duty for Budget 2014 >

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