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budget 2024

Budget 2024 will include social welfare payment increases, says minister

The Taoiseach confirmed yesterday that a pension increase is on the cards for Budget 2024.

SOCIAL PROTECTION MINISTER Heather Humphreys says she will be ambitious about the autumn’s budget social welfare package, indicating she would like to match the €12 pension increase achieved last year. 

Speaking in Trim in County Meath at the opening of a new cultural centre this afternoon, the minister said while it is “early days” in terms of budget talk, she has a number of priorities. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed yesterday that a pension increase is on the cards for Budget 2024. 

When asked if she at least wants to match the pension increase that was achieved last year, Humphreys said:

“I got a €12 increase across the board last year. I have to sit down with my colleagues… but I’ve always been ambitious in my asks, let’s say.”

“I think to be fair, we did have a lot of lump sum payments this year and last year, and I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect an increase in social welfare payments. But what that would be, that all has to be decided,” said Humphreys. 

She went on to state that there are many who need support, but singled out pensioners, people with disabilities, and carers, in particular. 

“I’ll be looking right across the board at the different payments that we make. I’ll be doing that over the coming months as we prepare for the budget, which will be later in the year. And look, I expect there will be an increase,” she said. 

When asked if those on Jobseekers will be left out of any increases, the minister said: 

“No, I’m not saying that. I’m just mentioning those three [pensioners, people with a disability and carers] as three particular vulnerable groups that I know of… we must remember that we’re at full employment. There’s never been so many people at work in this country before,” she said. 

She added: “In terms of the budget, I will certainly be looking at many different things. It’s early days yet, I’m not going to start flying kites, because, like I said last year, I’d need to be like an octopus to hold them all down.”

Expanding hot school meals scheme

One area she said she wants to see expanded is the Hot School Meals Programme. 

“That’s an extremely successful programme and I want to continue to expand that further. There’s many other priorities in the in the Department of Social protection that I would like to look at as well,” she added. 

When asked if it might be possible to expand the hot school meals scheme so children can avail of the service beyond the school term, an idea put forward by Barnardos, the minister said such a move would present challenges, given that many staff could be away on holidays. 

“What I’m trying to do at the minute is to make sure that every primary school child in this country gets a hot school meal. I’ve made a commitment that any child born today will have by the time they’re going to primary school, they will have a hot school meal. So I have a very ambitious target to roll this out to all the schools,” said the minister. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said earlier today that expanding the hot meals to school holiday periods could present “logistical complications”. 

The government would examine the proposal, but he said that other extensions of the scheme would be prioritised. 

Humphreys said the economic social dialogue will be held with all the different groups in July where representative groups can make their views on what is needed known. 

Finance Minister Michael McGrath was also questioned about this year’s budget, with the minister telling reporters that he will not be bullied by Fine Gael TDs who are trying to include tax cuts in Budget 2024.

On Monday, Fine Gael junior ministers Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Martin Heydon and Peter Burke called for the budget to contain tax breaks of up to €1,000 in an opinion piece published by the Irish Independent.

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