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.
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.
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 email@example.com
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