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Plan for medical card holders to avail of income scheme

The Cabinet will consider a new initiative which would enable medical card holders to avail of income through the “rent a room scheme” – without any impact on their eligibility for the card.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is seeking ministerial approval for the plan which provides a disregard for rental income of up to €14,000 a year from medical card assessment.

Under the Health Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2024, either medical card holders or applicants could generate income of up to €1,166 a month without it being counted during applications for medical cards.

It is expected that Mr Donnelly will describe the scheme as an important step towards the Government’s goal of providing additional accommodation to alleviate the crisis in providing residential rental accommodation.

He will also seek Cabinet backing to expand access to contraception by expanding the role of pharmacists and removing the need for GP visits in some circumstances.

By amending the 1995 Medicines Board Act, pharmacists will be empowered to sell and supply approved medicines without the need for a prescription, such as for minor ailments like conjunctivitis.

This amendment should also allow pharmacists to supply oral contraceptive pills without prescription, to support the Free Contraception Scheme.

If the Cabinet backs the plans, Minister Donnelly hopes to have the legislation through the Oireachtas before the summer.

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath is to bring legislative proposals to ensure there is no further decline in the numbers of ATMs for people to access cash in towns and villages around the country.

The Access to Cash Bill gives the Central Bank powers to compel banks to provide ATMs in areas where people have difficulty withdrawing cash.

It is understood that Mr McGrath’s aim is to restore the number of ATMs to 2022 levels before Ulster Bank and KBC left the retail banking market.

Minister for Education Norma Foley will also update colleagues on implementing the landmark Louise O’Keeffe judgment, in which the European Court of Human Rights found the Irish State liable for sexual abuse she suffered in primary school.

The action plan, due to be published in a couple of weeks, provides details of implementation of child protection procedures in schools and an update on a compensation scheme.

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