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'They're giving with one hand, and taking away with the other'

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Laura Haugh with her children. Photo:  Alex Oliveira

Laura Haugh with her children. Photo: Alex Oliveira

Laura Haugh with her children. Photo: Alex Oliveira

Mother-of-two Laura Haugh is typical of many middle-class parents who have soldiered through years of austerity.

While she believes the worst of the recession is behind us, she's frustrated that couples with children bore the heaviest burden during the lean years.

She said income tax hikes, the USC, and a raft of "hidden levies", have decimated the disposable income of countless couples across the country.

"We seem to be in a time of recovery, and people are feeling positive, but not enough is being done to help families.

"We were told the levies would go when the economy started to recover, but only a minority were removed in the last Budget," she said.

"That Budget improved our marginal tax rates, and there was a decrease in the higher rate of tax. But all that came with water charges - just as we were getting to grips with the property tax."

She also criticised the Government's "token" of an added €5 back on child benefit, saying such a paltry amount will not make any discernible difference to a family's bottom line at the end of each month.

"Families are the hardest hit because we're juggling childcare expenses, as well as the cost of day-to-day living.

"And the burden seems to be greater for those with children. No allowance has been made by the Government to help those with young kids."

The 36-year-old is a marketing manager with MummyPages.ie, an online parenting community, and her husband Ross Haugh is a sales director with a transport company.

She also singled out the Government's lack of investment in areas which directly impact on young families.

"Our schools are still asking us for help in fundraising because they're simply underfunded, and they can't buy equipment that our children badly need to have a good education.

"Parents are expected to pick up the tab.

"There are families out there who are making decisions around whether they pay a bill or bring a sick child to the doctor.

"The €65, plus whatever prescription they're likely to get, could bring it up to €80 or €100.

"Then they end up going only in extreme situations. These are very real scenarios facing parents across the country."

Irish Independent