Leading homeless charity slams Budget

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A leading homeless charity has hit out at the Government’s budget which they say fails to address the escalating homelessness crisis.

In an attempt to address the housing crisis, €414 million will be made available for social housing along with an additional €17 million being earmarked for emergency accommodation.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan also announced that NAMA, in conjunction with developers, has set a target of delivering up to 20,000 residential units before the end of 2020, the majority of which will be in the Dublin area.

However, Focus Ireland has strongly criticised the measures enacted in the budget saying that the budget “failed to deliver a meaningful package to stem the deepening homeless crisis”.

Ahead of the budget, the charity had called on the Government to provide €500 million in funding to address the problem.

“Focus Ireland said it had been hoping for measures which would help the charity to tackle the ever rising tide of new families and individuals becoming homeless,” Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said.

“We had worried that decisions would be ‘too little too late’, but we never expected that the Government would fail to take any significant measures to tackle homelessness.”

Other measures included in the 2016 budget are a reduction in the rates of the Universal Social Charge (USC), as well as a 50 cent increase in the minimum wage and a €5 increase in child benefit.

The 50 cent increase was forecast earlier in the year following the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission and will come into effect at the start of next year, bringing the minimum wage up to €9.15 per hour.

Meanwhile the 9% VAT rate on tourism implemented in previous budgets will remain in place with Minister Noonan calling it a major benefit to the tourism sector.

The USC will also be cut from 1.5% to 1% on the first €12,012, 3.5% to 3% on the medium threshold of up to €18,668 and the rate for the top tier threshold of between €18,668 to €70,044 has been cut from 7% to 5.5%.

The only tax increase put forward in the last budget before the general election will be an additional 50 cent applied to the excise duty on a pack of 20 cigarettes raising the price to €10.50 while excise duty on alcohol remains unchanged.

Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant’s Association of Ireland has welcomed the measures introduced in the budget calling it “pro-job, pro-tourism and pro-hospitality”.

“The retention of the VAT [rate of] … 9% into 2016 is crucial to not only the sustainability of restaurants and businesses in the tourism sector but also to job creation,” he said.

The Government also announced a number of spending increases on social benefits including a €3 per week increase in all pensions, a €5 increase in the child benefit as well as a 75 per cent increase in the Christmas bonus for those on social welfare.

Recruitment in the public sector also received a boost with provisions being put aside for the recruitment of 600 gardaí and 2,260 teaching posts including 600 resource teachers.  A further 610 special needs assistants will also be recruited.

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