Squeezed middle shown some love as dig-outs give breathing space to struggling families



There were some decent immediate and long-term dig-outs for families in the Budget, but with higher prices few will break even this year.

he squeezed middle got some love, unlike last year. The tax breaks were some of the biggest ever. There will be more families keen to find out the details compared with previous Budget days as not since the financial crisis have so many households felt pinned to the wall.

Like most of the Budget, the energy credits were leaked, but it is always nice to get these things in writing. Households will get €600 off their bills. €200 in November, January and March, so before the Christmas rush and just after when families are broke. People will be extra-prudent about lashing on the heating – everyone understands these credits will not fully make up for spiralling costs.

The 40pc higher rate of tax will apply only to earned income of over €40,000. That’s €740 in the pocket for someone earning €40,000 – double for joint income couples. A win for the pressed middle. There was a surprise in that a third rate of tax at 30pc – something which was understood to have been dismissed – is being considered after all.

In his speech, Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Michael McGrath said he understands the costs of school books for parents, so from next year is scrapping them for half-a-million primary pupils.

Many schools that do the book rental scheme ask parents to pay in June (average €110 per child) when the scrambling of funds for summer camps ramps up – so great news here; we can assume we will never have to pay for primary books again.

However, secondary school books are twice the cost. Hopefully in the future we can also make these free.

For parents with college students, some of the pressure will be taken off with a refund of €1,000 in fees, with more for those earning under €100,000 and increased grants.

Housing is a central challenge, Mr Donohoe said. Talk about the understatement of the year. He outlined some progress in building and said the Help to Buy scheme will be extended until the end 2024. My problem with this is there is a limit of €500,000, so it’s not suitable for new homes in many parts of Dublin.

The new rent tax credit will make a big difference to households not eligible for state support. I will notice it for sure and it will be a lifesaver in January. A further credit of €83 a month next year is not something to be sniffed at.

But I felt sorry for homeowners because there was no mortgage relief. Hopefully the tax on vacant homes means people no longer buy places just to sit there and wait for prices to rise.

Roll on November 1 for the deliverance of the double child allowance, though few families have not already spent this in their heads. For our house it will mean a trip to the dentist for the four kids and getting up to date on the rugby subs, which have been due for weeks.

I can see the rationale for giving a lump sum as opposed to increasing the monthly rate – good to clear the IOUs before Christmas – but it is disappointing they could not do both.

Those who had kids before the last recession know child allowance used to be more generous. Inflation is much higher now and the allowance should have been boosted.

Those eligible for the working family payment will get €500 in November. The threshold changes will also mean more will be able to claim fuel allowance. Carers will get a €500 support grant.

It is positive to see an expected €175 off creche fees each month, though I did think about parents who employ child minders not registered with Tulsa – paid under the table – who will not benefit.

Meanwhile, a further 20pc reduction in public transport fares and a 50pc cut to youth travel cards means it has never made more sense to leave the car at home.

It is also a big relief that in-patient charges are abolished. This year my family had three trips to the emergency room and it all adds up.

I went along to the cost-of-living march in Dublin on Saturday and got chatting to a mother who told me she felt shame and panic in not being able to make ends meet.

Many feel like that, but hopefully after yesterday’s Budget, knowing that some immediate help is at hand, the stress won’t be as constant.


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