Tuesday 28 January 2020

Why putting young families first is really best for us all

Finance minister Michael Noonan. Pic Tom Burke
Finance minister Michael Noonan. Pic Tom Burke

I am lost in admiration for the parents of young children. I am sitting on an Aer Lingus flight where there are way more parents with infants and toddlers than is usual. There has been a little crying, but not much. I am encased in my headphones with Springsteen, so no problem. It always impresses me how every Aer Lingus crew member stops to smile and chat with every child.

To my mind it looks like these parents are sharing the work. I see as many fathers carrying infants as mothers. I suspect the parents are all travelling with one change of clothes as it seems like the average toddler requires enough stuff to stage a U2 gig. I spent time over the last weeks on the beach and there I saw much the same cooperation between couples, who all seemed very content in each other's company and more than happy to spend endless hours playing with their demanding offspring. I think the ploy is to tire them out.

Now this was holidays. Most of these adults are returning to jobs which may be as demanding as the children. We should give these parents as much support as we can.

It is in society's interest to have stable marriages and to have children who are loved, educated, and socialised by their parents. I say this fully aware that there are successful loving single parents everywhere and the only difference is how I feel about them is even more admiration for keeping the show on the road.

Young families are little short of crucified by housing and childcare costs. With two young children families can shell out €30,000 of their after-tax income before they put food on the table. Most will cope with the pressure, but it is not surprising that some will crack under the strain when they might have made it with a bit more help. Investing in childcare is investing in all our futures.

The two obvious ways to help financially are with housing and childcare. The first is fraught with problems. It seems that whenever the Government tinkers with the housing market, it makes things worse.

Childcare and early education is easier. If you get a tooth crowned, you get tax relief. If you invest in a pension, you get relief. I have nothing much against these breaks, but they seem less worthy than giving a young family tax relief on the huge childcare costs they face if both parents continue to work, and typically they do.

I am convinced that every penny spent on the welfare of young children will be repaid to society a hundredfold. Governments have talked about improvements and indeed there have been some, but we don't just need a big push, we need a massive one, Mr Noonan.

Sunday Indo Living

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss