In what will be the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Government’s diaspora-focused Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) next year, Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project welcomes the news that funding for the programme has been increased by €1.5 million in Budget 2024. This will bring the allocated funding to €15.395 million for the coming year, the largest it has ever been. The ESP is a unique programme that is a vital source of funding for organisations across the globe that support the Irish diaspora, and one which we are delighted to see the Government recognise through increased funding for the coming year. Particular attention will be placed on areas with rising numbers of younger Irish citizens, with CSO Population and Migration estimates demonstrating a continued trend of outward migration post-pandemic.
Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project also welcomes the increased funding in social welfare supports and measures aimed at alleviating the impact of the current cost-of-living crisis. These measures will benefit families and individuals returning to Ireland, particularly those most vulnerable who may be facing financial difficulties on return. Included in the measures are increases to weekly social welfare payments by €12, as well as a number of once-off payments aimed at supporting the most vulnerable in society.
There are a number of other measures and increases which have been introduced in Budget 2024 that will be of interest to those living abroad and thinking of returning to Ireland. For parents returning with children, childcare costs are to be reduced by 25%, while Child Benefit payments will be extended to include those aged 18 in full-time education. Parents Leave and Parents Benefit will be extended by two weeks to a total of nine weeks. For those of pension age, the State Pension has increased by €12 weekly, with a cost of living bonus due to pensioners in January 2024.
In second level education, free schoolbook schemes will now include Junior Cycle students (up to third year). At third level, there have been improvements to the Student Contribution from September 2024. With respect to postgraduate students, there has been a full restoration of maintenance grants under the Student Grant Scheme from September 2024 as well as improvements in the Tuition Fee Grant.
Budget 2024 has also seen the introduction of the Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme as part of the Governments Action Plan for Survivors. This scheme aims to provide financial and health related supports to people in recognition of circumstances they experiences while resident in a mother and baby or county home institution. While the total cost for this multi-annual scheme is expected to be €800 million, €225 million has been allocated in Budget 2024 to assist with its implementation.