Down to the Bare Bones – Cutting (the fat of) Child Benefit

Let us take care of our children, for they have a long way to go.
Let us take care of our elders, for they have come a long way. 
Let us take care of those of us in between, for we are doing the work.
(Traditional Blessing)

This is my hope: in a culture of austerity may we not have a poverty of vision.

May we hold our values above our economics.

May we respect each stage in the journey of life as having value and dignity, and offer the support it needs, rather than resent each penny that is required.

May we not turn against each other in trying to find solutions.

Let us stop for a minute and look beyond the numbers, to the ambitions and basic needs of every family. Let us nurture the creation of healthy families, support their aspirations, regardless of their parental financial situation. Let us give every child, the same basic funding so that we know their basic needs can and will be provided, come what may. Let us value the next generation financially. Let us value the parents who care for them.

A hopelessly idealistic plea, you might think. But one for which I make no apologies, nor take any credit.

This is the vision of Child Benefit.  A Universal financial payment which has been supporting families for decades. (for a great explanation of what Child Benefit is and what’s happening to it, see yesterday’s post in our BlogMarch.)

And yet at exactly the time we need Child Benefit like never before, we are being chastened for being greedy and unrealistic in valuing what we have. What (in a good economy)  was thought of as a vital support for parents and children is now seen as a luxury (in a flat-lining economy), and one to which the rich are not entitled …. so nor should the poor or the squeezed middle be. We soon will have to prove that we deserve it, that we are poor enough, and jump through the hoops of the already creaking Family Income Supplement system to get less than what we already have…

How fair is that?

I am not going to give you a sob story about the choices we as a family make or the details of our personal finances. They are truly not your problem. Because I do not expect you, or the State, to take financial responsibility for me and my children.

Just like I do not expect to have to pay to bail out the banks. Or repay bond holders. But I have. And my cost of living has shot through the roof, as our means have declined. But market forces only work one way, it seems.

I want to live in a society which values – financially and morally – the needs and contributions of each sector of society from youngest to oldest – at their time of need. 

I thought I did. But I was wrong. 

I understand something: money is all that matters right now. The money for the party (of which my generation and my children’s were not part of) has to come from somewhere. The bill has to be paid.

But why from those of us who are under the most pressure? Who are working to build our careers, care for small children and pay off mortgages?These children are our country’s future and we the current economic powerhouse. We do not feel very powerful.

On Monday, the IMF admitted it completely underestimated the effects of austerity on the Irish economy. A new report showed that for every €100 of cuts, a knock-on €50 loss to the economy had been expected – through loss of employment and reduced spending.The reality was two-three times this.  

Let us not keep making these mistakes. Let us learn from the evidence.

The argument goes that Child Benefit is a luxury. Or that it funds luxuries. In a tough economy we need to learn to “man up” and realise that life is hard, which means cutting back the fat. Child Benefit is fat. Some are even suggesting that children are luxuries (I thought in Catholic Ireland they were supposed to be blessings from God, but what would I know?).

I see Child Benefit like this: if you benefit the family, you benefit the child, and you invest in the future. Cut the investment, limit the potential, pay later for the consequences… 

But we are so worried about now. About what if we can’t pay the Troika, that we forget our future. We forget the value of our children and the families that are nurturing the future.

Children are one third of our population and all of our future.  
~Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981

Meanwhile my children are aware that almost every time they ask for something the answer is always “sorry, no love, we just can’t afford it right now.” And so we focus on the luxuries that we can give them, the ones that money can’t buy, and squash them into their shoes for a bit longer. And pray that no one gets sick in a way our skeletal medical insurance can’t cover.

We are down to the bare bones. Our family. Our country. Where do we go now?

In the end it is down to numbers on a computer. Not lives or values
. Just economic survival. 

And computer says no. 

So the numbers must be made smaller. What these numbers represent does not matter so much. The impact on lives, the hardship, the anxiety, the loss of opportunity…

Well computer, you know what? 

We say NO too.

10 Irish parenting bloggers have joined forces in a “BlogMarch” to raise awareness of the crippling impact that cuts to child benefit will have on Irish families if introduced in December’s budget. The bloggers are publishing a blog post each over ten days to highlight the negative impact that child benefit cuts will have, as well as spearheading a nationwide media campaign. 

To find out more about the campaign, see my post here

You can join us on the new Irish Parenting Blogs Facebook page here

And on Twitter with the hash-tag #blogmarch 
You can contact Joan Burton, minister in charge of child benefit:
You can find the email addresses of all current TD’s and Senators here
You can sign the petition against Child Benefit Cuts here
There is a march organised against cuts to Child Benefit planned for November 3rd in Dublin. Starting at Parnell Square, D1 at 12 noon here
Read the other Blog March posts
The post that inspired me to start this whole campaign off: Ciara @Ouch My Fanny Hurts: Where her mother says we all need to speak up 
Day 1: ‘Child Benefit Stole My Child’s Allowance’ at  
The Irish Rhymes

Day 2  (Tuesday 9th):          The Clothesline Blog    
‘Stuck In The Middle- No To Child Benefit Cuts’

Day 3  (Wednesday 10th):   Mind The Baby  
Leave Child Benefit Alone, Tax Maternity Benefit Instead 

Day 4  (Thursday 11th):       Dreaming Aloud    
Down to the Bare Bones – Cutting (the fat out of) Child Benefit

Day 5  (Friday 12th):          The Daily Muttering

Day 6  (Saturday 13th):       Kate Takes 5       

Day 7  (Sunday 14th):         Wholesome Ireland

Day 8  (Monday 15th):        Ouch My Fanny Hurts

Day 9  (Tuesday 16th):        Wonderful Wagon

Day 10 (Wednesday 17th):          

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