The Minister for Finance, Pascal Donogue, delivered Budget 2018 on the 10th October 2017. The budget received a mixed reception from charity sector organisations. Although extra funding for vital services was secured through tireless lobbying by charitable organisations, many feel not enough was done to tackle Ireland’s social issues. The following is a sector by sector breakdown of what the budget means for charitable organisations and their work:
Homelessness and the housing crisis
An additional €18 million funding for homeless services is welcome and will allow for homeless service providers to make more beds available in an attempt to alleviate Ireland’s growing homelessness crisis. However, it is questionable if this will be enough to make a significant impact as the crisis deepens at an unprecedented rate.
Across the board there was a welcomed increase in funding available for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme. Mr. O’Donoghue announced that an extra €149 million would be made available to the scheme in order to aid those struggling to make rental payments in the ever inflated private rental market. This is a preventative measure, rather than a reactionary measure, which is a more proactive approach to solving Ireland’s homeless crisis than in the recent past. The test of this measure will be private rental sector’s willingness to accept such payments by tenants struggling to make their spiralling rent.
Perhaps the most disappointing measure announced was the increased build of social housing. The announcement that 3,800 new social houses are to be built by the end of next year by local authorities and approved housing bodies was a step in the right direction. However, when these figures were scrutinised by opposition parties and industry experts a different picture emerged. The 3,800 social housing homes promised by the Minister for Finance was already announced by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy in September of this year. This actual increase from previously pledged social housing builds was thirty-one social houses.
The increased funding for the health service is seen as positive. In particular, extra funding for mental health services of €35 million is certainly a step in the right direction.
The need for extra funding for primary and social care by addressed in Budget 2018 is positive and should ensure more people in need of vital healthcare services get the treatment they need.
Child Protection Services
The announcement of an extra €40 million funding for TUSLA can help to develop, support, promote the protection of welfare for children. The over 3,000 children now homeless in Ireland, TUSLA along with a number of other organisations can help alleviate this harrowing issue by funding out of hours services and the employment of extra staff.
The Charities VAT Compensation Scheme
From 1 January 2018 the Charities VAT Compensation Scheme will take effect. This scheme entitles charities to reclaim VAT based on the level of non-public funding they receive. The total amount of claims in a year is capped at €5 million and claims valued below €500 will not qualify. In order for charities to avail of the scheme they must be registered with the Charity Regulator, have tax clearance and provide and provided audited accounts for the year in question.
Over the coming year it will be interesting to see how significant an impact this budget will have. It will be the litmus test to reveal how seriously the government are taking the need to increase the services and protection of members in Irish society in need of assistance that is supplied by the charity and not-for-profit sectors.