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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly] There is provision in this budget to deal, somehow, with the backlog of assessments, particularly for children who have needs. I do not see how the staff are going to be provided to be able to even do that. That is not being addressed. We have a provision of €55 million for mental health. That is welcome but again it is not pushing forward A Vision for Change at the pace expected a number of years ago. For example, in my county of Tipperary there is not one mental health bed. The Minister completely underestimated where he is going with the GP contract. Negotiations have, belatedly, supposedly started. The provisions here for the GP contract are far more than what is being budgeted for.

I also have a concern with the provision of funding on disabilities. There is little specific detail on how it is going to be used. Are we just going to throw it out to the section 38 and 39 organisations and let them pull at it and use it as they see fit, or is it going to target the needs of the people we all know are there across a whole range of areas? I am exasperated pushing the need for further investment in home care and home care packages for the last number of years. I welcome the additional budgetary measures but they do not go far enough. There is common sense to this. The more people we can keep in their homes through these packages, the less costly will be nursing home care and acute care. We need to ensure these packages are targeted. We are also going to hit the old chestnut of not being able to provide the staff to deliver these packages.

I know a couple over the road. They have 30 hours a week care but they can only get ten hours because the staff are not available. That is a real issue. I welcome the provisions in respect of e-health. However, it is not enough. We need to ensure the issues we are facing, particularly on the acute side because of the lack of good technology, are been addressed at a speed commensurate with the problems we have. Extra funding for the NTPF is a bailout for the fact that our health services are not working. It is a bailout being given to private healthcare because our public health system is in such a mess. It is nothing else. It is short-termism and it is repeated year after year. Here it is again.

I will move on to childcare. I welcome the proposals to increase the thresholds for the affordable childcare scheme. However, it needs greater clarification to understand what one has to do to qualify. Does the family have to be in receipt of a payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection? More importantly, the changes being brought about do very little for a working couple who have childcare needs and who will go over these thresholds. It does little to nothing for them. The real issue with childcare, which my colleague, Deputy Sherlock, has referred to numerous times, is to ensure that childcare workers are paid enough. Paying a living wage of €11.90 for all staff in the sector would have been a good move. It has been ignored again. In the whole area of childcare, the issue of parental leave, and how it has been dealt with in this budget, is something that is unusual. The two weeks of paid parental leave are actually coming in after the next budget, so-----

Deputy Sean Sherlock: Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock Yes, they are.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly -----why, in the name of God, are they being announced in this budget? They are coming in November 2019. They will not have any impact between now and the time whoever stands up here at the next budget, after the next election.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin No, it will not.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly It will have no impact. Why is it being announced?

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan It is for votes.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Votes.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly That is it exactly. It is for votes, or the lack of votes. When it comes to education, it is very disappointing. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, has not got his slice of the pie, for whatever reason. He needs to come in and explain it. There is only an additional €190 million in funding, or less than 1% of the budget for education. When we strip out the increases for demographics, pay agreements and the already-announced capital plan, there is only an extra €119 million in resources for education. Across a budget of €10.7 billion, that is less than a 1% increase. That completely and utterly makes a mockery of the Minister's claims of a 6.7% increase in funding. Extra money was already allocated to hire more teachers and support staff to cover a growing population. It is called demographics. People watching are being misled if they believe there is a 6.7% increase. In reality, it is less than 1%.

There is no additional funding to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio at primary or secondary level, as my party proposed in our budget submissions. There is also no extra funding to genuinely deliver a free school books scheme. That would have cost €40 million. The Government is also not listening when it comes to higher level. It has not addressed the issue of student grants or reduced the student contribution in any way. We have a crisis in our primary schools. I have raised it here. In all of the schools where there are working principals across the country, it is unsustainable for them to work five days a week and also to ensure that 43 circulars, as was the number last year, were implemented. Those principals deserve to have one day of administration and they deserve to have that as part of this budget. I see €1 million is being allocated for "leadership". I hope that goes some way to addressing working principals because, otherwise I guarantee we will see them outside of the gates. On spending on capital in education, I have a serious concern about the 95 large scale projects being put forward. The Minister, through a sleight of hand, released plans for new schools a year or so ago. These were welcomed. The allocations given by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan a number of years ago, however, have in many cases not commenced yet. Where are they? I cite Coláiste Phobal in Roscrea as an example, which is probably the largest school in my county.

Turning to rural Ireland, we have the €53 million for the town renewal scheme. That is welcome but it is tokenistic toward rural Ireland if we divide it out. To be honest, this is a type of a makey-uppy Department. It is not going to have the impact in rural areas that it should have because it does not have direct budgetary lines to be able to do that. We also need to have considered and targeted grants and tax measures to ensure we have viable businesses and communities in rural areas. When it comes to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Minister, Deputy Ross, who is absent without leave, there is €40 million for new roads and pavements across the country. Averaging that out across local authorities, it is pretty paltry given the cost of roads and pavement repairs. Perhaps we need to improve a few of these pavements because we will be pounding them again in a few weeks, I presume. It is paltry. Anyone who goes running around saying this money is going to solve issue of the rural roads, that are in the Minister's constituency and mine, is only deceiving people.

On travel behaviour, I have also spoken about Irish Rail. We have money for greenways in the measures for smarter travel. I acknowledge that. It is not enough. Measures to deal with the issues I spoke about concerning climate change and carbon are simply not there to the level required. There is lost connectivity in respect of regional airports. It is not getting a fair bang for the buck in this budget.

I will speak briefly about VAT on tourism and the change to 13.5%. I thought there would be some commensurate measures in this budget to help with the small, family-owned restaurants and businesses that are going to be negatively affected in rural areas in west Limerick, north Tipperary, Wexford, Galway, Sligo and everywhere else. How are we going to ensure that these remain viable with this sudden change? What has the Government done or what is it proposing to do to ensure that happens? The answer is nothing.

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