Thursday 27 October 2016

State childcare plan discriminates against stay-at-home parents

Published 15/10/2016 | 02:30

'Minister Katherine Zappone has made it harder for families to opt for childcare by a parent' Photo: Tom Burke
'Minister Katherine Zappone has made it harder for families to opt for childcare by a parent' Photo: Tom Burke

As someone who so recently campaigned vigorously for equality in the marriage referendum, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is now presiding over a huge inequality - the widening of the gap between working parents and those who choose to stay at home to care for their children.

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With her "universal" childcare provision in the budget, Ms Zappone will make it yet more difficult financially for a family to choose childcare by a parent or family member. There seems to be some assumption that all stay-at-home parents are either doing so against their wills, as they just can't afford to work; or that they are so super wealthy that they don't need to work, and spend their days relaxing.

The reality is that many have chosen to step away from work to be at home to care for their own children, as they feel it is important for their families and beneficial for their children. Many more parents who work outside the home would love the opportunity to be stay-at-home parents, if only they could afford to do so.

As a stay-at-home parent, I don't want or expect to be paid for my work as a childcare provider - I have chosen to forego my salary in order to care for my children. I do, however, want to see an end to the clear discrimination that already exists in the tax system against one-income households with a parent at home - discrimination which is now being increased further with this new subsidy. The paltry increase of €100 in the home carers' tax credit goes nowhere near addressing this inequality.

Comments by the Taoiseach that "if the State wishes to subsidise children's care, we need to know where the children are and who their childminders are" are insulting in the extreme to stay-at-home parents and family carers.

Are parent or family childcare providers only valued once they have completed childcare qualifications and registered with Tusla? Should we be subject to Tusla inspections in our own homes? Can we not be trusted to care for our own children?

Stay-at-home parents may not contribute much to the economy in taxes (though many have contributed plenty in prior employments), but the value to our children, our communities and society at large is something that cannot be given a monetary value.

It is time that Ms Zappone and this Government woke up to that fact, and rectified this inequality.

Elaine Noonan, Glenageary, Co Dublin

Working parents need subsidy

Today, I heard a woman bemoaning the fact that stay-at-home mothers were discriminated against in the Budget because they are not in the workforce outside the home.

There were articles in many of the papers supporting this view. Those who work will have their childcare subsidised. Stay-at-home mothers should equally be compensated for their sacrifices,they feel.

This poses a conundrum. Those women who are in employment come home every evening and start a full day's work of cooking, cleaning, ironing and childcare routines. In fact, exactly what the others do in a full day.

So, therefore, if the latter group gets a subsidy for that, shouldn't the former get a double subsidy for managing two jobs in one day?

Common sense has gone out the window when this is the cry from people, most of whom make a conscious choice to stay at home full time and look after their children.

They don't have crèche costs and have much more leisure time and opportunities to educate and socialise their children as they see fit.

The cost of living is too high in this country and every effort should be made to make things easier for people. Childcare costs is one of those areas that can cripple working parents and prevent women, especially, from returning to the workforce, as is their right should they so wish.

In an ideal world, the government of the day would give us all a big subsidy every year just for being alive. In the real world we just have to get on with it and be grateful for what we have.

Mary Cleary, Dublin 24

Noonan and accountability

Finance Minister Michael Noonan's refusal to engage in a one-to-one debate with Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty on Monday night's 'Prime Time' is disturbing to all those who value accountability and meaningful opposition in Irish politics.

In a healthy democracy, it should not be the ruling Government's prerogative to select its opposition, whether that be in our parliament, or on our national broadcaster.

Noreen Breen, Templeogue, Dublin 6W

Politicians have betrayed the young

I fully agree with columnist Lorraine Courtney (Irish Independent, October 13)that our Government failed to adequately address the plight of young adults in Budget 2017.

I would put it more strongly than that and say that they have been betrayed by successive governments since 2008.

The financial burden placed on their shoulders, exacerbated by a fall in their income is a travesty of justice. Our young people are our future and our politicians - though they give lip service to the contrary - are unperturbed by our youth having to leave our shores because they can't afford to live here. Once again, an opportunity to make significant changes in their favour, such as raising the threshold for the higher rate of tax, was not taken in the Budget. Some effort was made to address childcare but it is such a paltry sum for people with so many bills to pay.

To add insult to injury, the necessities of life were subject to charges, eg water and house charges. It must surely be a contravention of the principles of a Republic that such charges are not paid for out of general taxation.

As we lurch from crisis to crisis, our lovely country seems to have lost its way.

Mary O'Donovan, Limerick

Don't defer to UK over Brexit

Brendan Keenan's prescription for Brexit is far too deferential towards the British (Irish Independent, October 12).

There is no need to meet British interests half way, because the reinstatement of a hard border in any event would break an Inter-Governmental Treaty (Belfast 1998).

North and South voted "Remain" and therefore the DUP/Conservative axis must be challenged head on. Partition has strangled Ireland for nearly a century - now is the time for reunification.

John Bradbury, Manchester, United Kingdom

Bob's blowin' in the wind

Was Bob Dylan ashamed of his name and his place? Did he beg, steal and borrow? Did he become as commercial as McDonalds? Will the guffers, some of them bluffers, always come to his aid? And they gave him the Nobel Prize for Literature - the times they ain't a-changin' at all.

Joseph Mackey, Athlone, Co Westmeath

When Bob Dylan was asked what his songs were all about, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature replied: "They're all about three minutes."

Dr John Doherty, Ard Chondai, Co Dhún na nGall

Irish Independent

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