What did Budget 2017 do for young people?
Jack takes a look at the impact of the recent budget announcements
Last month the government passed its budget for 2017. It was meant to provide a little something for everyone and help the government’s chances of surviving another year or more without a General Election. But after all the cuts of the past few years, was it enough to help young people with the costs of their education, housing and welfare? Let’s take a look at some of the key changes and how they might affect you:
Budget 2017 has increased funding to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs by €173 million, meaning it will have a total of €1.3 billion to spend next year.
€466 million of this will go towards funding the new Single Affordable Childcare Scheme. From next September, parents will receive extra support to help cover childcare costs. Those making the least money will receive the highest level of support. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, will get €37 million more and an extra €5.5 million will go into youth work programmes.
There will be €2.7 million extra funding for Youth Justice Community programmes such as Garda Youth Diversion. These are meant to support young people so they don’t get involved in crime.
Taxes and Wages
The Universal Social Charge (USC) has been cut by half a percent on the three lowest rates. This means that you’ll pay less tax on everything you earn up to €51,272 per year. The minimum wage will go up 10c an hour from €9.15 to €9.25.
The price of cigarettes has gone up by 50c, meaning you’ll now be paying around €11 for a pack of 20.
Third Level and Higher Education
First off: no changes to the Student Contribution Fee which stays at €3,000. The level of State funding for colleges and universities is to go up by €36.5 million, although that’s a lot less than groups like the USI were calling for.
There’s some good news for disadvantaged students, such as lone parents and people from the Travelling Community: the Budget set aside €8.5 million to help them attend college. €4 million of this will go towards postgrad students, who had their supports removed during the economic crisis. There will also be more money for apprenticeships as an alternative to third-level education.
Primary and Secondary Schools
The main change here is more money to hire teachers and other school staff. The government wants to bring in 2,400 new teachers next year, including 900 resource teachers, 115 Special Needs Assistants, 100 guidance counsellors and 550 teachers for Junior Cert professional time.
Extra funding should also cover 20,000 new school places and a €210 million investment in digital technology in schools. Disadvantaged schools will get a further €5 million investment and there’s €7.75 million to strengthen school leadership. There will also be extra funding for the School Meals programme which will affect around 50,000 pupils.
Social Welfare Payments
There will be a small increase to the rates of Jobseeker’s Allowance for young people. All other welfare payments are to go up by €5 a week, but young people will get a smaller increase. If you’re aged 18-25, your J.A. payments will go up by €2.70 per week. If you’re 25, your payments go up by €3.80.
From January 2017, lone parents will now be able to earn €110 a week (up from €90) and still get the full rate of One Parent Family Payment and Jobseeker’s Transition Payment. Any parent who qualifies for Back to Education Allowance will see their payment increase to €500 per year.
Your payments will increase by €5 per week if you’re on an employment programme such as Tús, Community Employment (CE) or the Rural Social Scheme.
Overall spending on health is to go up by nearly half a million euro. This will include more funding to tackle waiting lists, improve mental health services and give medical cards to disadvantaged children.
The government has also confirmed that they will introduce a sugar tax in 2018.
Housing and Renting
A total of €1.2 billion will be spent on housing in 2017. The government says this will fund the building of 47,000 new social houses. There will also be a 40% increase in funding for homelessness services.
Most first-time buyers will now get 5% of the value of their home back as a tax refund. To qualify your house will have to be new and worth less than €60,001.
Due to the renting crisis, the government will now allow homeowners to rent out a room in their house for up €14,000 a year without paying any tax. This is supposed to help students in particular to find somewhere to live.
People aged 18-24 will now have to pay less of the cost of their Rent Supplement if they’re claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Back to Education, Youthreach or a Further Education and Training allowance. The personal rent contribution will be reduced from €30 to €20 in most cases, and down to €10 for those on the €100/€102.70 rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance.