MARTIN WALL Older people are poised to benefit in Budget 2018 with a partial restoration of the bereavement grant and further reductions to prescription charges expected.
Negotiations between Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and the Departments of Social Protection are continuing, with further discussions scheduled to take place this week. A number of measures aimed at pensioners are expected to be included in next week’s announcement.
Among them is a partial restoration of the bereavement grant, a one-off payment of €850 given to families to assist with funeral costs.It was abolished by former minister for social protection Joan Burton in 2014. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar committed to its restoration in his campaign to become Fine Gael leader and is eager to uphold that promise.
The reduction in prescription charges given to people over the age of 70 may be extended to all persons over the age of 65.
In last year’s budget, the prescription charge for people aged 70 and over, and their dependants, was reduced from €2.50 to €2 per item and the monthly cap for prescription charges decreased from €25 to €20 for this cohort.
A restoration of the telephone allowance is also being examined as part of the overall package. This will be in addition to the increase in the old-age pension committed to by Mr Varadkar.
Government sources stressed “nothing was agreed until everything was agreed, especially when it comes to these two departments”.
No agreement between the Department of Finance and the Department of Social Protection is expected until later in the week.The proposed “working family payment” may be progressed in the budget and aimed particularly at lone-parent families.
This scheme was first proposed by former taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2015 and proposed parents would earn at least €11.75 an hour, regardless of where they were working.
Under Mr Kenny’s plans, mothers and fathers earning the minimum wage of €9.15 would receive a top-up of about €2.60 an hour from the State to encourage them to continue in work.
Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive has requested an additional €500 million in its allocation for 2018.
Among its demands was €100 million for mental health services with €35 million sought for developing new services and €65 million to cover the existing level of services.