Stuck In The Middle- No To Child Benefit Cuts


Politicians to the left of me, Bondholders to the right- Stuck in the middle with you.

Last week an advisory group to Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton, recommended cuts to Child Benefit. They propose cutting  the rate from €140 to €100 per child and putting a system in place where by low-income families can apply for a top up.

On the same day this happened, our government, paid 1 Billion euro to unsecured senior bondholders of AIB bank.

Via Stephen Donnelly Td for Wicklow and East Carlow

Final straw.

I have always had mixed feelings on Child Benefit. I am completely against a universal welfare payment to all yet have always been grateful for the monthly payment. When times were good, child benefit was increased and it increased annually all throughout the last decade. By the same logic now times are bad it needs to be decreased. I have three children, my child benefit has been cut every year in the last three and the third child payment will be reduced again at the end of this year regardless of what happens in this years budget. I did not complain or give out. I was not opposed to the payment being cut. I bought into the adage of we all need to tighten out belts, take the cuts, put the head down and battle on.  No more.

We all know there are parents in Ireland who do not need Child Benefit,the proposed cuts will not have a major impact on these parents whose annual income sits comfortably in the six figure mark.

With the proposed cuts those on lower incomes, which I am presuming are those who are in receipt of welfare and FIS will be able to apply for a top-up. So who loses out with these cuts? Who will feel it the most? The same people who are being squeezed and squeezed and squeezed at every turn. The middle-income earner. For me that is those families who earn slightly above average wage and falls short of six figures.

We are one of those families. Here is our story. Child Benefit is the only welfare payment my family receive. My husband works full-time. I work part-time and I am self-employed. My children are two, four and six. The reasons I do not work full-time are varied, one of them is the crippling  cost of childcare. I have not worked full-time since I became a parent for this reason. So I work around the children and I work when they go to bed. My husband works hard. He travels a lot. He has never seen our youngest daughter on her birthday. Again that’s fine, that’s life.  We thankfully do not have the noose of a house with negative equity around our necks. Unfortunately we do not own a home either. We rent privately. The rent is expensive but again that’s fine, that’s life. At this stage I had envisaged we would own a home again but do you know anybody getting a mortgage in this country at the minute?

We had no Celtic Tiger. We didn’t buy flash cars or holiday homes. We have personal debt. We are paying it back at the agreed terms when we took out these loans. We pay a significant amount of tax every month. We pay our rising fuel, heat, electricity and food costs. Do you know what we are left with at the end of the month? Nothing. Disposable income is a thing of the past.  If Child Benefit is cut, it will hit hard. Where will the money saved go? I know another 2 billion is due to be paid to the banks bondholders before the end of the year. I know another 17 billion is due to be paid next year. These figures are laughable they are so large. Is that where the savings on Child Benefit will go?

In the meantime our healthcare system is an absolute shambles. It has failed all three of my children in the last year. None of them were seriously ill. Yes there are thousands of children worse off than them but I can only speak and fight for my own children’s right to free healthcare.

Adelaide and Meath Hospital Tallaght

My eldest daughter is on a waiting list for Occupational Therapy. Current waiting times 16 months. A private assessment costs €550. That is 4 months of child benefit I get for her. A private session of occupational therapy costs €80. Two a month and its over the amount of child benefit I receive per month. Our Health Insurance does not cover it.

My son was waiting 17 months for an out patients appointment to see an ENT. His appointment was in August. He was not examined. We queued and queued and saw a doctor who said he would bring my son in for a sleep clinic in the next few weeks. That was two months ago not a word from them since. He is also on a waiting list to see a Optomalogist. Current Waiting time 22 months.  The cost to see a consultant privately – €180. We have seen two at the cost of two months of his Child Benefit payment.

My youngest daughter had a problem with her teeth. She was just shy of two. The HSE dentist said there was nothing they could do. Full stop. Nothing. I asked could we go privately. She said the cost would be in excess of €10,000 as we would need a surgical team. No cover from our Health Insurance. We managed to get her sorted through a different route. The doctors we saw kept telling us how lucky we were that they were seeing her. I don’t think we were lucky at all. I do not think you should have to fight and fight and fight to get a medical appointment for a child under two. A baby.

Thankfully I have an understanding and approachable GP because there have been months, despite both of us working and on paper looking like we have a relatively good income, where we had a sick child on the week before pay-day and we literally did not have the money to pay the GP.

Our taxes are not going towards our children’s health and because of this we also  pay a hefty private health insurance premium also.

What about are children’s right to free education? Sure the school is free. This year I have a Junior Infant and a child in first class. The total cost of getting the two of them to school including uniforms, shoes, books, runners, tracksuits, coats, schoolbags and voluntary contributions, just short of €1000. Or a couple of months of each of their Child Benefit. They are four and six. I know the cost will only increase as they get older. In August as a result of the back to school costs, Bord Gais threatened to cut off our gas as I was unable to make full payment of my gas bill. Nice. We work and work and work and try so hard to do the best for our children. We get no welfare payments, with the exception of Child Benefit, and getting the children’s necessities for school nearly resulted in our heat being cut off.

I will be writing to Joan Burton and asking her where is the money they save from taking it off children will be going to? Are my children going to be seen quicker in hospitals if our Child Benefit is cut by €40 per month per child? Are school books going to become free? Is there finally going to be a tax credit towards the cost of childcare?

I will also be writing to my local labour TD, Alex White, who stood on my doorstep less than two years ago and promised me, a vote for Labour would ensure no cuts to Child Benefit.

The state is not responsible for providing for our children. We as parents are. But when our taxes are going towards paying unsecured bondholders of failed and now state-owned banks and sinful expenses for politicians, I will not lie down and let the state cut the child benefit that helps fund my children’s health, welfare and education. The amount we receive in Child Benefit is a small percentage back on the amount of tax we pay, on our payslips, on every transaction we make, on every levy and surcharge that is added to our ever increasing bills. It is not the government’s money, it is ours. I have no faith that they will spend it wisely so I am vehemently opposed to another Child Benefit cut.

There is no denying the current system of Child Benefit needs to be reformed. I do not know the best way this can be done. I do know if I had a team of economists, tax and welfare experts available to me and a mandate from the people, I would damn sure try to work out a way, instead of blanket cuts, leaving  blameless children as the most vulnerable members of  our society.  The wealthy of this country will always be looked after, they always have been, not just by themselves but by those in power. The low paid and those on welfare have advocates and supports available to them.The middle-income earners have nobody. We are propping up this country at the minute and we are being bled dry. If you squeeze something hard enough there will be nothing left. I will be asking Joan Burton and Michael Noonan to consider all the children in this country when they consider cuts to Child Benefit. Saying those on low-income can get topped up and stating there are thousands who do not need is all fine and well. These are the families who are always mentioned. Do not forget about us.

10 Irish parenting bloggers have joined forces in a “BlogMarch” to raise awareness of the crippling impact that cuts to child benefit will have on Irish families if introduced in December’s budget. The bloggers are publishing a blog post each over ten days to highlight the negative impact that child benefit cuts will have, I will share them here. 

You can contact Joan Burton at joan.burton@oireachtas.ie

You can find the email addresses of all current Td’s and Senators here

You can sign the petition against Child Benefit Cuts here

There is a march organised against cuts to Child Benefit planned for November 3rd in Dublin. Starting at Parnell Square, D1 at 12 noon.

You can join us on Twitter with the hash-tag #blogmarch and on the new Irish Parenting Blogs Facebook page here

Get in touch if you want to share your story

 

0 thoughts on “Stuck In The Middle- No To Child Benefit Cuts

  1. Krista (@godders45) says:

    Fabulous post. We are in the same position. My husband works long hours, often 7 days per week and the days he should be off, he does overtime more often than not. I am a SAHM for many of the same reasons as you – childcare would cripple us. I plan to go part-time once my youngest is at nursery a few days per week. My husband is a middle income but I only wish it were a 6 figure sum. The only way we’d see that is if we won the Lottery! We have a privately rented house too. We get no benefit of a reduced payment when the mortgage rates drop. In fact, private renting (as you know) always goes UP almost every year. Our utility bills are ridiculous – we are paying over £120 per month for gas and electricity alone. We try and manage one holiday per year, normally a week in Spain but we haven’t always been able to do that. Our 3 year old is in a private school nursery as we can’t get into any ‘free’ ones locally. Despicable isn’t it. We would love to own our own house but it turns out that it may help us that we don’t as we are likely to need to move to get our girls into good schools anyway. We often wait for the child benefit to come in to have a little extra money each month for food or clothes for the girls. Hubby and I haven’t bought any clothes (other than off eBay) for over a year now. We both need a new wardrobe! LOL I so agree with you. I wouldn’t mind having the benefit cut if it went to people or institutions who really need it but not with the ridiculous bonuses going on at the moment.
    It may be different in the UK but what also angers me is that because my husband earns just over the £50k limit, we will have our benefit cut to almost nothing, despite the fact that I do not work. Yet other couples where they can both earn £49k (making over £98k per annum) keep ALL of theirs. Someone tell me how this can possibly be seen as a fair and justified format?

  2. Meetmums (@Meetmums) says:

    Brilliant post.

    I think the obvious solution, instead cutting everyone’s child benefit, would be Means Tested! Why oh why can they not do it means tested??? Is the only fair way! This country (and I do Love Ireland) is so archaic in some ways… I get a letter from the Child Benefit Office every couple of months to fill in by me and my employer so they know I haven’t left the country and still claiming. I mean, I pay taxes, I have a PRSI number, and still, they cant look that information up??? They have to spend on paper and post sending every 2 months the same letter to make sure I am still in the country? its a joke.

    And dont get me started with the private insurance because I’ll get an ulcer…

    • Boots says:

      while means testing will be the obvious choice here the problem lies in the cut off point. If child benefit was means test there would be probably a very low cut off point so it would probably be easier to get a medical card. The biggest issue here is child benefit is income to all homes and most family would have borrowed and created a standard of living based on this income and whether this is spent on child care, mortgage, fuel or education it will have to be found elsewhere as a source of income. For some this is not possible and for others it will be €150/child less to spend resulting in the knock on affect on the economy.

  3. Siobhan Harding says:

    Brilliant and articulate post. There are so many like you. My husband and I a few years ago only had 1 child and we were both working fulltime. Now I have 3 children and am a SAHM. I have been looking for jobs that would cover childcare costs and it is near impossible. We have private healthcare thru my husbands job but my son needs to see an allergy specialist as he breaks out every second night in rashes but we are on a wiaitng list publicly for the last 5 months and have been told it will be another 3 months before we know if we get an appointment that could be in 2014! To see a specialist and get bloods done could cost 1000 euro and like most people we havent even enough to get us thru the month after mortgage payments bills loans food heating school activities etc. If the benefit is cut I will have to cancel all of my 6 year olds sons after school activities, no more Rubgy athletics or tennis, I dread to tell him why!! I have no idea how we will manage each month as I have already moved to the cheapest gas/heating provider I have moved to the cheapest car/house insurance there is nowwhere to budge anymore except on food or put more shopping on the creditcard, getting me further into debt!!!. I started only last night to do a small business from home to make money by making crafts and selling to friends etc but with starting at 9.30 at night and working into the small hours and then getting up during the night for the babies and then up early again like most mums its taking a toll on me. I feel like crying most days and to be honest most of my friends havent a clue what I am going thru so I am sure there are many more mums like me who put on a brave smile in the school playground but inside their brains are screaming out what the hell am I going to do in a few months with less money coming in!!! The middle class are a breaking point…I am at breaking point, my relationship with my husband is at breaking point. That is why I will not take this cut in benefit, I will march and protest and I will be heard and I wont back down and I wont be fobbed off by a token reduction. I WILL NOT LET THEM TAKE MY CHILD BENEFIT.

  4. maryrose lyons (@maryrose) says:

    “Child benefit is the only welfare payment my family receives”… this is true for me as well, a single parent, self employed… I get nothing else from the State, yet I’m sweating this month to ensure I pay ALL my taxes on time. It is wrong to cut child benefit I now realise thanks to your great blog post. I am going to take part in the blog march.

  5. mammisammi (Samantha Long) says:

    This is a very heartfelt story,all true and so identifiable for so many.
    However,at present no-one has presented the figures for what a high income family is in this context. This is a discussion at the moment,which will probably become a proposal in the budget. I also believe in reforming the universal system as it is inequitable in its current form. The daily media speculation,on and offline now is frightening people,and I do believe that people like the lovely parent who wrote this,my family and the vast majority of the population won’t suffer a cut as per this speculation. When we learn the facts,lets talk further…we don’t have those yet.

  6. Tinman says:

    This is the kind of post that our Government should be reading, or that the Irish times should be publishing, instead of the “everyone knows we need to tighten our belts” rubbish that their current commentators write.
    You are so right, there is a section in the middle of our society that just has no more money to give, and this Government does not realise that, because they are as out of touch as the last lot. And every Euro more that gets squeezed from us is one more Euro that we’re not going to spend in our local shop, or on goods produced here. This can only lead to more unemployment, so to more people being unable to pay off loans, so to more losses for the banks, so to more money being needed to support them. It’s incredible and shameful that supposedly intelligent politicians don’t see that.
    Well done with this post, it’s terrific.
    Tin

  7. 1perriwinkle says:

    What kills me about the government cutting child benefit is that I’m not spending that payment on holidays, nights out or new clothes for myself, I’m actually spending it on my children!
    My son does a piano lesson once a week and my daughter goes to a theatre group once a week; Yes, I realise I am very lucky because I personally know plenty of people who are struggling to pay their bills or put food on the table. But my point is that the child benefit is being spent in the local economy either in the supermarkets or clothes shops or afterschool classes or whatever and if they don’t give that money to parents to spend on the ground, then even more people will become unemployed and even more families will slip in to poverty.

  8. A says:

    Brilliant post. The only problem with means testing is the limit will be put so low that it will put all of the “squeezed middle” out of it. We’re typical of the squeezed middle, contributing so, so much, but entitled to nothing. My oldest is in college, and he’s had to get a loan to put himself through, we can’t afford it any more, and he obviously isn’t entitled to a penny in grants. I’m only glad he’s the first, and that I’ve a gap before #2 and #3 are going, because right now, if #2 and #3 were heading to college, we’d have to choose which one would go. There’s no way right now I could have two kids in college. Just no money.

    Right now the CA pays for everything the kids need – shoes, after-school activities, the school contribution. There’s nothing left in the other pot for that stuff.

    If I could get up and go, I would. I’m not interested in continuing to provide half our household income to the Government in return for nothing. I can’t access any of the services we’re providing money towards, not healthcare, not college grants, nada. There’s only so far we can stretch, one day we’ll be pulled so far we’ll break.

  9. Anita says:

    great post.
    My husband due to long ilness can’t work, I can’t work cos I car for him and our child. being on social sucks. We are struggling. WE rent thru RAS and rent isn’t any chepaer for us it takes approx 25% of our income which is alot for us yet there is nothing included in the price. We are thinking of going some other country but I have no trade apart from 10 years of admin experience. Child benefit goes for my son’s montressori 2x a week that is all I can afford. I haven’t been in a proper clothes shop for years and to be honest Im fed up with buying second hand clothes too but that’s the only way for us. I hate being here, being stuck, being violeted by the gov. I can’t even find a decend job to help me fight depression I am struggling with for years. I am so tired of my life and the constant struggle. People don’t want to be friends anymore cos everyone is having more or less the same problems.I’m so lonely here.

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