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Budget 2023: Free school books and cuts to childcare costs part of €10 billion package

Kenneth Fox

Families with toddlers to teenagers are to be the big winners in Tuesday’s €10 billion budget to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

A raft of new measures including free school books for all primary school children, smaller classes, reduced childcare costs, a double child benefit payment, a €500 reduction in college fees, and energy credits amounting to €600 per family are to be unleashed.

As the Irish Examiner reports, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe described “demanding” discussions he and the Minster for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath held with fellow ministers in signing off on the €6.7 billion Budget 2023 package and a cost-of-living splurge on once-off measures of over €3 billion.

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Minister for Education Norma Foley is a big winner, having secured €47 million to make school books free for all primary school children on a permanent basis, starting next September.

Ms Foley has also secured a further reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio at primary school level from 24:1 to 23:1, the third such decrease in a row.

Significantly, she has also secured money to enhance and expand the school transport scheme to guarantee latecomers and concessionary ticket holders a seat on a bus.

For third-level students, the cost of going to college is to be reduced by €500 to €2,500 after Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris secured funding.

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The full details of the childcare scheme were still to be decided when leaders met to sign off on the budget last night.

However, a reduction of 20 per cent to 25 per cent for parents is expected next year, although the introduction of the scheme could be delayed for a number of months.

A second reduction would also be implemented in 2024, to halve costs for parents.

With childcare costs ranging from €700 to €1,200 per month — depending on the facility and the part of the country — the amount that fees are reduced by would depend on the amount parents are currently paying, but on average savings of between €160 and €200 are likely.

It was announced yesterday that a €20 increase in social welfare payments has been ruled out for the budget, according to the Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.

Speaking ahead of the unveiling of the budget on Tuesday, Ms Humphreys said that agreement around the social welfare provisions has not yet been reached, and talks will continue.

Ms Humphreys said that a strong package of measures will be put in place to ease the pressures people are facing in terms of the rising cost of living, and that there will also be an increase in the social welfare payments.

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