COPE Galway has given a cautious welcome to the announcements for Budget 2018. The local organisation welcomes the allocation of €1.83 billion for housing to deliver almost 25,500 homes [including 5,900 social homes through construction and acquisition; 19,600 through the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS ), the Housing Assistance Payment scheme (HAP ) and Long Term Leasing in 2018].
COPE Galway noted that these previously stated targets remain unchanged and highlighted that the targets have to be seen in the context of 91,600 households qualifying for social housing support nationally in 2016 and 5,222 adults and 1,442 families accessing homeless services in August 2017.
COPE Galway foresees challenges in increasing the number of homes available through HAP in particular, despite the €149 million increase in funding, now going to annual budget of €301 million. This is in light of the difficulties many families and individuals who are homeless are experiencing in trying to secure private rented housing.
While welcoming the reduction in prescription charges, COPE Galway was disappointed at the failure of Government to abolish these charges, which have an especially negative impact on the lives of older people in the community. COPE Galway also expressed disappointment about how little has been said on reducing the waiting list of 4,500 for homecare services, despite an additional €646 million in current expenditure allocated to Health.
The €5 per week increase in all weekly social welfare payments is welcomed by COPE Galway but there was an opportunity missed to address the continued age inequality in social welfare payments for those under 26. The plight of young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness remains unaddressed with many unable to support themselves out of homelessness into accommodation.
COPE Galway welcomes the introduction of VAT compensation as this will allow the local charity to divert funds to those in need of their support.