Thursday 19 October 2017

'The Budget for the squeezed middle? It won't have any positive effect at all'

One mum-of-three talks 'squeezed middle', childcare costs and mortgages

Jenny with her partner Aiden and their children Ella, Jack and Penny
Jenny with her partner Aiden and their children Ella, Jack and Penny

Kathy Armstrong and Laura Larkin

One mum-of-three has said today's Budget, pitched as a 'Budget for the squeezed middle', is unlikely to make any difference for her family.

Jenny Sherlock (32), from Athlone, is a civil servant, while her husband, Aidan is in the Defence Forces. The couple have three children and are struggling to balance the cost of childcare against a rising cost of living.

"I don't think it's going to have any positive effect at all. While the USC is going down, I don't think we will gain from it with the mortgage interest relief also going down," she said.

The couple bought their home in 2007 and were hoping that mortgage interest relief would be extended. However, today Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, introduced a phasing-out of the measure.

"As someone who would be considered a middle earner, I don't think it will be of any benefit to us at all. I would have liked to see something in terms of childcare such as an increase in the childcare subsidy or an increase in child benefit," she told Independent.ie.

"It's good that they increased Social Welfare for recipients of those payments but an increase to child benefit would have seen an increase across the board.

"It really didn't help anyone in the 'squeezed middle'.

"Without something that's going to have an immediate result in our pockets, it's hard to think of the Budget in a positive light," she added.

Jenny said that while wages have fallen for many workers, the cost of living has increased and people are struggling to make ends meet.

"Over the last seven or eight years there have been so many cuts to wages and it seems to cut middle earners the most, there doesn't seem to be much relief," she said.

"It just seems to be more tax on top of more tax and that doesn't seem to be anything to counteract the cost of living.

"I think the fact there is a homeless crisis shows that people are at breaking point, some of them would have been in the middle income bracket and in some cases they've had to leave their homes because they just can't afford it.

"Our incomes have come down but the cost of living hasn't and it has pushed people beyond a point where they can manage."

Jenny said she is grateful to have received mortgage relief and would be apprehensive about any changes to the allocation.

She said: "We bought our house in 2007 so we are lucky to have benefited from that to date."

Jenny is mum to Ella (10), Jack (6) and Penny (eight months), she splits the childcare between a créche and family members, which she says was "purely a financial decision."

She said: "When we had our third child we looked into full-time care for just her and we were quoted €900 per month, that's not including someone to mind before and after school for my other two children.

"For us it just wasn't an option to pay that much in childcare.

"The cost of childcare has risen so much that for most people I know it's not an option to pay full-time, they need help from friends or family.

"Otherwise you'd be paying out your entire wages on childcare and that defeats the purpose of going to work."

Her mother minds the three children three days per week, while her sister minds her two older kids two days per week before and after school.

For two days a week Penny is in creche, which costs €380 per month.

Jenny said that ideally she would have liked to see measures introduced to help parents.

"A lot of people my age have very large mortgages, so it isn't a choice whether one or two parents go out to work, it's mandatory.

"Then you end up in a situation where you're paying out the majority of one wage in childcare but you're backed into a corner because there isn't a choice there."

She said that she hopes that middler-earners will start to feel the benefits of Ireland's recovering economy.

"You can't pay bills when there is nothing left in your wallet, it's a fairly common story in this country and I hoped now that we're coming out of the recession something could be done and people won't feel so tightly squeezed."

Jenny blogs at https://seriouslymammy.wordpress.com/

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