2 April 2017
By Elaine Murphy
Self-employed people in Cork can now benefit from free dental and optical exams through the Treatment Benefit Scheme for the first time ever. Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has welcomed the move by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to extend these PRSI benefits to 450,000 self-employed people and their spouses across the State.
“Thanks to our recovering economy, the Treatment Benefit Scheme covering free dental and optical exams has been restored to employees, and crucially is now also being extended to self-employed people for the first time ever.
“This means that small business owners, farmers, tradesmen, freelancers, contractors and professionals in Cork can now benefit from this Scheme for the first time.
“People who work for themselves and pay PRSI at class S can now get the same regular dental and optical examinations, free of charge, that until now were only available to employees. They can also get a grant for hearing aids of 50% of the cost, to a maximum of €500 per aid, every four years.
“This move is just one element of Fine Gael’s overall plan to support self-employed people. “We have already made steps along the road to fully equalise tax credits between PAYE workers and the self-employed. We also reduced capital gains tax relief for entrepreneurs, reduced commercial motor tax for road hauliers and reduced the cost of accepting card payments to help retailers.
“Many small business owners in Cork have spoken to me in the past about the fact that they were not entitled to State supports, compared with PAYE employees. Fine Gael committed to changing that, in recognition of the fact that self- employed people must be supported and encouraged. We all know that successful small businesses are more likely to create jobs, thereby increasing the opportunities for job seekers in our local towns and villages. Supporting the self-employed is good news for the whole community.
“That’s why we committed to restoring the Treatment Benefit Scheme to employees which had been cut by Fianna Fáil in the wake of their economic crash. We also committed to extending it to the self-employed and I am really pleased that small business owners in Cork, and wider Ireland, will now benefit. I was also pleased to hear confirmation that more benefits are to come and we will look to further strengthen supports for the self-employed.
“This will include the restoration of scale and polish treatment under the dental scheme, and the option of free spectacles or a contribution towards a more expensive pair under the optical scheme. The past division between employees and self-employed people will be eradicated as from now on, the restoration of benefits such as these will be available to both groups here in Cork.
“Minister Varadkar will also make the invalidity pension available to self-employed contributors who cannot work due to long term illness or disability. This will be a really welcome move for the Irish self-employed, for the first time ever will have that security if they are unable to work.
“We in Fine Gael will continue to support self-employed people. Small and family businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and have played a crucial role in the recovery that is now well underway.”