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Cork East Fine Gael TD, and Minister of State at the Department of Justice, David Stanton, has welcomed Budget 2018, including the allocation of €2.6 billion to the Justice sector.

Minister Stanton said “The Budget is in keeping with Fine Gael’s key messages of creating opportunities and making life easier for families, providing further assistance to vulnerable people, improving the lives of elderly people and boosting investment in communities”.

“Measures introduced to assist families include reductions in USC rates, increases in the One Parent Family Payment and Jobseekers’ Transitional Payment earnings disregards, an increased in the threshold for receipt of Family Income Supplement (now Working Family Payment) and increases in the weekly rate of the qualified child payment. Budget 2018 will also provide for a €5 per week increase in all weekly social welfare payments and a rise in the national minimum wage to €9.55 per hour”.

“Small business owners will be boosted by a €200 increase in the Earned Income Credit, the launch of a Brexit Loan Scheme making up to €300m available to SMEs at a competitive rate and the creation of a new Key Employee Engagement Programme (KEEP) to support enterprises in their effort to attract and retain key employees”, said Minister Stanton.

“The largest ever Education Budget of over €10 billion, with an extra €1 billion this year, will result in 1,300 new school teachers, a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio to 26:1 at primary level and over 1,000 new Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in September 2018”.

“To tackle the issues of housing and homelessness a total of €1.83 billion will be allocated to housing while the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) will increase by €149 million, to meet the needs of over 25,000 households next year”.

“Among the measures included in Budget 2018 which will have a direct impact on older people are increases in the State Pension to come into effect in March 2018 and additional investment in the Free Travel Scheme. Reductions in prescription charges for all medical card holders under 70 from €2.50 per item to €2 per item with a subsequent reduction in the monthly cap from €25 to €20 have also been introduced”.

“Further measures including the retention of the 9% VAT rate for the tourism sector are also more pertinent in the context of Brexit and vital for the economy of rural Ireland”.

Minister Stanton also welcomed the €100 million increase in current expenditure for the Justice sector and confirmed that an additional €157 million has been secured for 2018-2021 leading to total capital investment of €838 million over the next four years.

“Garda numbers will increase again in 2018 after 1,400 new recruits were hired in the last two years. 800 Gardaí and an additional 500 civilians to further aid the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí will be recruited. Additional funding has also been earmarked for large Garda infrastructural projects, ICT technology in the Courts service and a Public Private Partnership project to improve court facilities in seven locations around the country”.