Friday 24 November 2017

Carol Hunt: Means test will give rise to child poverty

Ditching the universalism of child-benefit payments will push many working families over the edge, writes Carol Hunt

FOR many families, August will indeed be a wicked month. The first Tuesday -- a day eagerly awaited by an increasing number of both working and stay-at-home mothers -- falls on the 7th, the latest date possible. It's not until then that the monthly child-benefit payment will arrive into bank accounts -- fingers crossed because these days who knows where the banks may send our money.

And of course, up and down the country there will be Mammies using that payment not for the children, but to put toward the gas or electricity bill, do a big grocery shop, replace a much-needed kitchen appliance; even worse, in some homes it will be used to give exhausted, stressed-out working parents a night out at the local where they'll get a chance to count their pennies together and try to figure out how to pay the childcare bill for the next month.

Initially when Children's Allowance, as it was called, was introduced by Minister Sean Lemass in 1943 it was to show government support for the right of the child to be provided for. It was not a charitable payment -- hence the importance of it being universal -- and it also recognised the fact that rearing children is an expensive business -- and that mothers often go without in order to care for them.

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