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Budget Statement 2018 (Continued)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly] Recently, there were 500 people on trolleys and over 700,000 people on various waiting lists for different procedures. Unfortunately, this budget is very shy when it comes to the provision of funding for disabilities, despite there being a Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Finian McGrath, who talks a great deal about this. Can the Minister of State say when the Government will sign up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? In May 2016 he said it would be done in six months and that he would ensure it would happen. It still has not happened. If we do sign up to it, that will obviously have implications as well.

  I welcome the 1,800 front-line staff being put in place across the health care sector. The issue is whether we will be able to source them and if programmes are in place to ensure that we get them. Of course, all the funding put forward in this budget for health care ignores a massive elephant in the room, the general practitioner, GP, contract that must be renegotiated and the costs associated with it. Those costs will be high, so there is a huge contingency involved. What happens if the renegotiation is successful, and I hope it is? What area of this budget will suffer? The Minister never even mentioned Sláintecare. However, he spoke about an access plan. The provision for home care and home care packages is simply not enough. The funding he spoke about in respect of older people is contingent on there being services in the community for them. There is no need to tell many of the Deputies that those services simply do not exist, particularly in rural areas. How can one provide funding to get people into services that do not exist in light of the fact that the capital fund is primarily taken up by the children's hospital project? There is very little detail on other capital expenditure on primary or community care in the budget or in any of the documentation. The Government says it will provide funding to get elderly people into the right setting, but there is no funding to provide the settings. It is not going to happen, and we will be back in this House next year saying the same thing.

  The National Treatment Purchase Fund is a short-term gain and a long-term loss. We are basically bailing out health service inefficiency and a system that is broken. I can understand people waiting for procedures needing the fund. If we do it for a couple of years in a row, so be it. However, it is now becoming part of the system. That is unacceptable. It is really saying to management in the health service that it need not worry and that if it cannot deliver we will bail it out. That is unacceptable. I also seek a guarantee from the Minister, because I believe I have not been given the full story on this in the past, that there will be full funding for next year for the nine orphan drugs he has committed to bringing through the system to make them available to patients by November this year.

  I am very disappointed with regard to child care. The wages of child care workers constitute a major issue and this is not addressed in the budget. Of course, it is not addressed because it would never be on the agenda of this Government in the first instance.

  Will the Government stop telling lies by saying it is giving a €5 increase to everybody on social welfare payments across the board? If one uses a calculator, one will discover that the increase will amount to €3.85 in 2018. The increase is €3.85, not €5. That is a fact. Will the Government clarify if jobseekers under 26 years of age will get a pro rata payment? I do not believe they will. I welcome the changes in respect of the national training fund and the levy that is being introduced. However, I am very concerned about the Minister's comment on employers' central role in this area in the future. Yes, they have a role but I am not sure that it is a central role.

  I have no idea what the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, is doing in this Government, and I know from the Acting Chairman, Deputy Eugene Murphy's, face that he has no idea either.

Deputy James Lawless: Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless It is something to do with judges.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I thank my colleague.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The three gardaí for Stepaside.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly There is also Stepaside, but we will return to that in the Committee of Public Accounts.

The provision of funding for public transport is paltry; it is ridiculous. I say that as a former Minister of State in the Department who had specific responsibility for public transport when we did not have a bob. We have been talking about the tax breaks that have been given and the few bob being given to those on low incomes, but the provision of transport services is a key issue for people. There is nothing in the current funding that is of real value in the context of improving those services. There is a sum of €9.6 million. The bus services across this country, particularly those in rural areas, have gone through awful turmoil in recent years. What provision is being made and where is the long-term, big-picture thinking in the area of rural transport, its integration, Bus Éireann services and ensuring there is a map of bus services in this country to meet people's requirements? There is no provision in the budget to address that, which means people in rural areas will suffer exponentially again. The provision for cycling is not up to scratch either.

I concur with our spokesperson on finance regarding the provision in the budget for the Department of Rural and Community Development. I am aware of all the programmes in the new Department. I was responsible for them for a number of years when I was served as Minister. There is a sum of €19 million extra. There was a massive launch about a year ago of a big action plan for rural Ireland by the then Minister with responsibility for rural affairs. Will it take €19 million to implement it? It will not. It is farcical. To be fair, the Minister in that Department has a passion for rural Ireland, but he has not been given the funding to do anything about it. In fact, he has very little funding to do anything.

This Government is running away from climate change. In the context of the mitigation plans that must be introduced and the statements Ministers must, under the legislation - I know this because I introduced it - make in the Dáil, it is a laugh. There are no provisions in the budget relating to key areas where we must change our ways in respect of our carbon footprint and climate change, particularly with regard to serious issues in transport, agriculture and the built environment. The provisions simply are not there, so how can we meet our targets?

Finally, I have a question relating to the justice area, which the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Doyle, might put to his colleagues. A sum of €63 million is provided for the justice Vote. I am a little bemused by this. Indeed, I am taken aback by what is being provided. As the Deputy for Templemore, I welcome the 800 new gardaí. I wish it was 1,000. I also welcome the extra number of civilians being taken on board. However, is there provision in the €63 million for a change in the overtime rate for An Garda Síochána? We support An Garda Síochána but it is my understanding that there was an agreement reached between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, AGSI, and the Garda Representative Association, GRA, during the discussions last year to the effect that there would be a change in the overtime hours of An Garda Síochána from 41 to 39 in 2018. That is going through the Labour Court at present and is not being discussed much. Can the Minister of State find out where in the name of God that money will come from? We support it and we support the Garda, but from where will the money come?

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