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Budget 2015 contains a number of social welfare and employment measures which will improve the lives of families and children, says David Stanton, Fine Gael TD for Cork East.

“Last week’s Budget, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, introduced a number of initiatives and changes to increase income and employment supports for parents. The €1.97 Billion allocation for child benefit will see some 613,000 families receive an additional €5 extra per month per child in January 2015. For parents, and others, who are long –term social welfare recipients, there will also be a Christmas bonus of 25% of their weekly payment paid in December this year to help with additional costs associated with this time of year.

“There were also a number of measures to assist and support parents seeking to secure employment with a budget allocation of over €1.1 billion for employee and employer supports in 2015. The new Back to Work Family Dividend, allowing parents to retain child dependent allowances when returning to work – 100% of the payment for the first year, and 50% for the second year – will provide additional financial support to lone parents and long term unemployment parents to get back to work. This means that parents on this new scheme will receive an additional €1,550 per child in the first year of employment or self-employment. The number of places on the JobsPlus, to incentivise employees to hire long-term unemployed people, will be doubled to 6,000”, noted Deputy Stanton.

“Children also benefit from budget changes. In 2015, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, will provide over €260 million for the childcare sector. Over 100,000 young children will participate in the Free Pre-school Year and the Community Childcare Subvention will support over 900 community childcare services. A new team of early childhood education inspectors will also be introduced to ensure high standards in pre-schools.

“School age children will benefit from an €88 million investment to recruit 1700 new teachers and SNAs to ensure class sizes are protected and broad subject choice in second level schools. An extra €5 million is being invested in the school book programme in primary schools and funding for the school meals programme is also being increased by €2 million. The National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy will also receive an increase of €6 million.

“Capital investment at primary, secondary and third level will also continue throughout next year to cater for increasing demand for school places and also to improve facilities across the education sector. At third level, students will benefit from a €30 million investment programme on a number of large capital projects. Funding will also continue for the Department of Education’s Five Year School Building Plan, with the 2015 programme to be announced later this year.