Saturday, October 13, 2012
Won't get fooled again
'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. For more, see here.'
Last week I was interviewed by TV3's Midweek programme in order to give my views to the proposed child benefit cuts that are currently being discussed by the Irish Government. Across the board cuts of approximately 30% are being outlined, with top-ups being made available to families on low income.
I was asked whether I thought these cuts were fair and, as we sat drinking coffee in the nice kitchen of my nice house, would it really affect me that much.
As a middle class mother living in a middle class town it's hard to sit on national TV and justify why these funds shouldn't be taken away from you - because on the surface it looks like a cushy little life and sure your kids aren't going to starve now are they?
Well no, probably not, but what looks like a 'comfortable' life on paper doesn't actually tell the whole story - and we all have a story. This is mine:
My husband and I have three children aged 4,6 and 8. My husband works full time for a decent wage and I work part-time from home.
The Celtic Tiger years passed us by and we were too busy keeping our heads above water to partake in the antics that the politicians seem to believe were our downfall. We couldn't afford to buy a home around friends and family and so, desperate to get on the ever increasing property ladder (and continually encouraged by the banks and Government to do so), we begged, borrowed and almost stole to secure a modest three bed semi-detached house in a more affordable village about an hours drive from where we lived.
Six years later we need to move back to family but our house is now in severe negative equity, we can't sell it or we would end up with debts of approx €125,000, so we must rent it out. For the past two years that is what we have done - subsidising the minuscule rent of €550 (which we have to pay approx 40% tax on - but don't get me started on that) in order to pay our mortgage of €1400. Alongside that we pay rent on where we are living now - another €1100 (again for a modest three bed semi). This is where the majority of our money goes - into a pit for the next 20 years or until property prices level off. It's hard to stomach but that's life, and we know that there are a lot of people in a lot worse situations than us.
However over the past two years cut after cut and tax hike after tax hike have left us reeling. With three asthmatic children we live in fear of them getting sick as the medical costs are so exorbitant. We are constantly juggling funds that are non-existent, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and at almost forty years old with two decent wages coming into the household, I find myself still taking handouts from family just to stay afloat.
And now in the space of a week I hear three things that make my blood boil.
Firstly - our government has just paid 1 Billion euro to unsecured senior bondholders of AIB bank - that's five times the amount the proposed child benefit cuts are estimated to save us. Another 2 billion euro is due to bondholders before the end of the year in Anglo Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, EBS building society, and Irish Life and Permanent. A further €17 billion will be handed over next year. It's almost too frightening to even consider where these funds will come from.
And then our Government announces that it targeting us once again - on two fronts this time. Firstly the cut to child benefit which the equates to a quarter of our monthly grocery shopping (despite pre-election promises to the contrary), and secondly with a tax hike to landlords (because obviously they all have loads of cash from all their boom-time properties.)
Whilst I know Ireland is in trouble and I know we have to take the hit somewhere - I'm just not sure how much more the squeezed middle classes can take. When will the Government realise that we are not the cash-cow that will see them out of this mess? When will they start looking at the billions being funnelled to the rich kids? It's like making one family recycle all their plastic bottles whilst a massive factory next door pumps out all their chemical waste into the adjoining field. IT ISN'T WORKING!
The Government needs to realise that these changes to child benefit are going to do more harm than good. They are hitting the most vulnerable in society and making cuts that are ill thought out and unjust. They need to stand up to the banks, shake up the system and really get to the core of the problem. Stephen Donnelly, TD for Wicklow and East Carlow writes brilliantly this week in the Irish Independent about this very issue and even gives solutions to how they can do it successfully.
It IS possible for Ireland to recover - but it will take guts and intelligence to carry it through and, well, maybe that's asking just a little too much of our Irish Politicians.
If you feel strongly about this issue and want to add to the pressure being put on the people who will ultimately decide our fate then please take 30 seconds to sign this petition - almost 30,000 people already have.
There is also a march organised against cuts to Child Benefit planned for November 3rd in Dublin. Starting at Parnell Square, D1 at 12 noon.
If you could share this or any of the other BlogMarch post on Twitter with the hash-tag #blogmarch we would be very grateful.