Kildare South TD and Chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Martin Heydon has welcomed some Kildare specific provisions within Budget 2020 including measures aimed at alleviating pressure on Bord na Móna, its workers and their families, as well as confirmation of funding from Health Minister Simon Health for the expansion of St Brigids Hospice to 13 beds.
“Minister Simon Harris has confirmed additional funding for St Brigid’s Hospice, Kildare which will mean an expansion to the full complement of 13 beds during 2020. The Minister acknowledged the role of local fundraising through the Friends of St Brigids Hospice when he stated “It is a testament to the local community that we have reached this point. Their perseverance and fundraising has been coupled with State funding to ensure your communities can access this specialist care.” I will continue to liaise with the Ministers office to ensure this funding is available as soon as possible to ensure the additional beds can be brought into use early in 2020.
“The Midlands region including Kildare has been specifically catered for in Budget 2020 to help mitigate the impact on moving away from fossil fuels for Bord na Móna workers. The transition away from peat, towards more sustainable, renewable energy sources, will have a significant impact on the Midlands and Bord na Móna in particular.
Among the new measures introduced in the Budget include:
• €6m Just Transition Fund targeted at the Midlands. This funding will support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses in the midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition. There will be further consultation with the structures in place in the Midlands, including the Midlands Transition Team, on the application of the funding.
• €5m for bog restoration and rehabilitation which will restore bogs to their natural habitat and become sinks that absorb carbon. This programme will support the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to restore 1,800 hectares of bog in 7 counties, resulting in 28m tonnes of carbon stored over the next 5 years. It will create 70 jobs in year one rising to 100 as the programme develops.
• €20m to deliver new model to group housing upgrades together as set out in the Climate Action Plan. Targeted at the Midlands, this will support an estimated 400 jobs directly and indirectly, as well as significantly upgrading the social stock in the region during 2020.
“To help communities determine the most pressing priorities Minister Bruton will shortly appoint a Just Transition Commissioner. The Commissioner will engage with all relevant stakeholders in the Midlands, including Bord na Móna and the relevant unions, and will work closely with the National Economic and Social Council and with the local taskforce.
“Children across Co. Kildare will benefit from improvements to education under Budget 2020. At over €11 billion, this is the highest ever allocation to the education sector and an increase of nearly €2 billion since 2016. This is a real sign of the priority this Government places on education and the ambition Fine Gael has for our country’s future.
“The increased funding will deliver supports to the children who need it most. As well as paying for 150 new mainstream teaching posts in schools, there will be an investment of €1.9 billion in special education, providing over 400 additional teaching posts to support those with special educational needs and hiring over 1,000 additional Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). With 17,000, we will have more SNAs in schools than ever before.
“A further schools package will deliver supports for small schools and increases in the standard and enhanced capitation rates.
“I was also pleased to see an increase in the income limit for medical card eligibility for those over 70’s and confirmation of recruitment of additional dementia advisers for Counties which don’t currently have one which includes Kildare.