Saturday 1 October 2016

Childcare costs are tipping working families into poverty

Published 02/10/2015 | 02:30

'Our monthly childcare costs are almost a third greater than our mortgage' (picture posed)
'Our monthly childcare costs are almost a third greater than our mortgage' (picture posed)

My wife and I are blessed with two happy, healthy children under three, two secure public service jobs, a home to call our own and a reasonable mortgage. By most definitions, we are a middle-class, middle-income family.

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Except that we are not. The cost of childcare has pushed us towards accepted definitions of poverty.

We don't have family living nearby towards can help with childcare during working hours, and we send the children to an average/lower-priced crèche. Both of us have cut our working hours and now we each work four days a week, and so the children are in crèche for just three days. The costs still comes in at almost a third greater than our mortgage. Odd as it may seem, by working less, we turn a small profit of about €20 a month.

Having done the sums, I today applied for a medical card and found we were well within the threshold of a GP visit card. I will apply for this in the coming days, it will help with the medical bills over the winter months.

Further research led me to the 'Guidelines on a Reasonable Standard of Living and Reasonable Living Expenses', published by the Insolvency Service of Ireland, which is intended to provide guidance for allowable living expenses for those undergoing the bankruptcy or personal insolvency processes. After childcare and mortgage, our monthly disposable income, for bills, food and a limited social life, comes in almost €300 less than the allowable expenses for an equivalent family who are bankrupt.

On this evidence, and given that by all other indicators we are a middle-income family who would not expect to have to take a calculator with us into Aldi, push off paying bills for months at a time, and genuinely dread the coming Christmas, it is clear that childcare costs are a major factor in tipping working families into poverty. These are families who pay their taxes, pay their mortgages and who do not have access to community crèches or the Family Income Supplement.

Extra parental leave won't solve this problem, nice as this idea must be to prospective parents. Help for working families requires either tax relief on childcare costs or immediate extension of the ECCE scheme to part-pay two years or fully pay one year of pre-school education - contrary to popular perception, there is no free pre-school year, as the current scheme covers just over a third of the average cost.

Working families might not shout as loud as other groups, but they do tend to vote.

Name and address with Editor

There are tablets for that

An iPad for every five-year-old child (Irish Independent, September 26)? Keep taking the tablets, Michael Noonan.

John Williams, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Turning point for the disabled

Last week was a historic one when world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). President Michael D Higgins joined disability organisations to highlight inclusive development.

He attended a photographic exhibition highlighting the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Ireland played a key role in the negotiations for the new global development agenda, with its Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador David Donoghue, appointed to co-facilitate the final phase.

The issue of development has been a major theme of President Higgins's presidency and he has said that "it is my hope that by 2030, we will look back at September 25, 2015 as a turning point in world history".

He was given a tour of the exhibition, 'Framing Perceptions', by the photographer Graeme Robertson and Sightsavers Ireland CEO, Michael Marren.

The images and personal stories bring to life the reality for people living with disability in developing countries. In many countries, they are the most excluded and hardest- to-reach of all groups in their community.

They are less likely to have access to healthcare and education, and in turn find earning a livelihood and lifting themselves out of poverty that much more difficult, if not impossible.

The exhibition illustrates the barriers they face. along with the potential to overcome them and transform their lives when given the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

The Irish Government will have a vital part to play in ensuring the goals are delivered.

Sophie McCallum, Sightsavers, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Captains are there to lead

I firmly believe that had Japan not scored a try in the last minute to win the game against South Africa in the Rugby World Cup, then England would at least have drawn their match with Wales.

I am sure that Chris Robshaw and the whole England team had watched the Japan v South Africa match and they had seen how fortune had favoured the brave, but this decision by Japan to go for the try had clouded England's judgment.

Japan had nothing to lose, as a minnow of world rugby against a powerhouse of the game - of course they were going to chance their arm and the Japanese team was duly rewarded with a historic win.

Maybe Robshaw was thinking 'how can I not have the guts to go for the lineout when Japan had the temerity to do just the same against the two-time world champions'?

But for England this is much more important than a one-off win. They are hosting this World Cup, and they are one of the favourites.

Where was Robshaw's clarity of thought under pressure? A captain is there to lead.

James Taplin, Dubai, UAE

President's magnificent prose

Reading Philip Ryan's comments on Michael D Higgins's speech to a small number of UCD students at Newman House last March, I was struck by his downplaying of the magnificence of language used by our President (Irish Independent, September 26).

In today's world of high-tech living, I think that a lot of people are failing to learn to appreciate well-written prose.

If Mr Ryan found the President's references to "German philosophers and Polish sociologists" confusing, surely using his high-tech gadgets, he could quickly find the relevance of the references?

Today's journalists could learn a lot from our President's careful preparation of his comments, both written and oral.

Proper construction of sentences and correct grammar and spelling would be refreshing.

S Carroll, Tallaght, Dublin 24

Irish Independent

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