Any form of tax cuts within the 2020 Budget would be inappropriate and result in the loss of vital revenue for childcare and services for people on low incomes, a coalition of children and women’s groups have said.
Representatives from the State’s major family support charities also warned that the newly introduced national childcare scheme (NCS) “doesn’t go far enough for long parents and people in deprivation”.
The group called for subsidised childcare to be extended from 40 to 45 hours per week for children in full time childcare and from 17.5 to 23 hours for children in after school care, as per a proposal laid out by Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone.
“The total cost of this investment is €6.5 million, a marginal part of that €700 million in this fiscal space,” said chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward.
“Ireland unfortunately has the highest childcare costs in Europe at the moment. This must be a priority even with a Brexit budget. There is no doubt that if we are hit by a hard Brexit, many people will be out of work and families will need this extra childcare support to help retrain for a new job.”
Addressing the gap
Tricia Keilthy, head of social justice at St Vincent de Paul, criticised rumours of tax cuts, describing them as “lost revenue for things that could be invested in like childcare”.
“If we’re really committed to actually having a budget that’s going to address inequality and poverty, tax cuts are not going to do that.”
She said the current structure of the National Childcare Scheme would see around 10 per cent of poor, lone parents losing out on the subsidies.
“With lone parents already five times more likely to be living in poverty, it is essential this gap is addressed as we believe these families will be disproportionately impacted by changes to childcare subsidies,” said Ms Keilthy.
“A lack of sufficient childcare hours could potentially negate any positive budget 2020 measures introduced aimed at reducing poverty.”
The State must focus on targeted measures such as an increase in the minimum wage and improvements in the working family payment, she said, adding that the Department of Education should actually deliver “genuinely free primary education” including a budget of €20 million for free school books.
Louise Bayliss from single parents group Spark Ireland warned of the financial burden faced by parents whose children turn 18 before completing the Leaving Cert and as a result, lose child benefit. Some young people are opting to leave school and sign up for Youthreach courses in order to qualify for social welfare payments, she said.
“Nowadays children start school that bit later, a lot do transition year, so more are at risk of losing their benefits at 18. Children are leaving school and that is entrenching intergenerational poverty.”