Cabinet signs off on once-off cost-of-living payment for foster carers

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Gabija Gataveckaite

Cabinet ministers this morning signed off on a once-off cost of living payment for foster carers.

A payment of €325 for a child under 12 and €352 for a child over 12 and under 18 years of age will be made to foster carers before the end of the year.

The payment is part of a number of one-off cash payments put in place by Government to alleviate the cost of living crisis.

It is not clear when the payment will be made, however senior sources said it will be paid out before the end of the year.

Housing minister Darragh O’Brien also brought an updated version of Housing for All to Cabinet.

He told colleagues an expert working group has been set up to examine modern building methods.

This group will examine more cost-efficient ways of building homes.

Ministers were told next year’s targets face “challenges” as costs are spiralling due to inflation.

However, the target of building 24,600 homes this year will be “exceeded” despite “unprecedented” challenges caused by the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet is being told substitute teacher wages and the war in Ukraine are to blame for the Department of Education spending being €314m over its budget.

Cabinet ministers are told that day-to-day costs in the department are €144m ahead of profile while capital expenditure was €170m over budget by the end of September, according to its latest quarterly expenditure report.

It is not clear yet if the department, overseen by Fianna Fáil minister Norma Foley, is set to get a supplementary budget, with sources saying it is “too early” to tell.

A senior source also insisted the spending, which is 4.7pc higher than forecasted, could still be within budget if spending is reduced in the coming months.

Cabinet ministers will be told on Wednesday the day-to-day costs of running the department have soared due to the costs of paying substitute teachers’ wages.

This is “higher than anticipated” at this stage of the year as 14,000 unqualified teachers last year were hired due to shortages across schools.

A Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) survey recently showed most secondary schools are unable to fill key roles due to shortages.

School transport costs have also been exceeded by €17m due to the provision of additional services to Ukrainian pupils and contributions paid to bus contractors to offset increased fuel costs.

The increased spending also includes €96m on Covid-19 supports to schools for parts of the 2021/22 and 2022/23 academic years.

The department is also battling increased construction costs of 21pc in its capital expenditure.

It has also spent more than expected on the “urgent need” to accommodate “very large and unplanned influx significant numbers of children from Ukraine and other countries”.

Its capital costs also include extra school places for children with additional needs, due to increased population and the “increased prevalence of need”.

Cabinet ministers will also appoint the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) as the statutory registration body for the Construction Industry Register Ireland under proposals from housing minister Darragh O’Brien. previously reported on the Government’s plans to crack down on unregistered builders by making it compulsory for construction workers to be registered.

Ministers will on Wednesday sign off on the brand-new Construction Industry Register Ireland, which will be overseen by CIF.

Around 800 building and contracting companies are on the register, which is not yet mandatory.

However, sources expect this to increase to “at least” 5,000.

Employers who provide work to residential and non-residential buildings will have to register but as well as sole traders.

“It is preferable that a body with experience and expertise in the construction industry performs this function – similar to how the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) operate statutory registers for architects and surveyors,” said a Government source.

“Ultimately this is about consumer protection and giving those that engage a registered builder assurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant operator.”

Senior ministers will also consider scrapping obsolete legislation as part of an extensive review of Irish laws.

114,000 laws have been examined so far with the aim of having a modern and accessible statue book.

So far, primary legislation pre-1922 has been reviewed and secondary legislation, now referred to as statutory instruments, has been reviewed up to 1820.

Public expenditure minister Michael McGrath will now seek approval from Cabinet colleagues to draft the Statute Law Revision Bill 2022 as a result of reviewing all available secondary legislation from 1821 – 1860.

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