By Ann Marie Foley - 01 October, 2013
Barnardos has urged the Government not to cut what it calls “lifeline” payments for struggling families in Budget 2014.
They warn that the cumulative impact of cuts since 2008 is crippling families and that parents are going hungry; the charity also warns that every cent cut will mean less food for children.
“The Government haven’t a clue what a €10 cut can mean to my family. At this stage any cut in this budget will mean less food in my children’s bellies. As it is, dinner time in my house is cleaning time for me – my children never see me eat. I always tell them that I’ve eaten earlier,” Anne from Co Meath explained.
Barnardos also expressed concern that children are growing up in families and communities that don’t have any hope.
“Successive Governments have betrayed families. As a society we have failed utterly in our commitment to protect children and their parents from the ravages of poverty and deprivation. Instead of lifting more children out of despair, we have plunged more and more into it,” Barnardos’ CEO, Fergus Finlay, said.
He added, “This is not simply about one or two Departments and the decisions they must make about where to save money. This is now about leadership from the Government as a whole.”
In its Children’s Budget 2014 submission, the charity quoted another parent who recounted, “I am constantly worn out. I don’t sleep thanks to the Government with the stress of what they could do next.”
Barnardos has said that families need relief now, not in a year or two. The charity also warns that children are missing out on basic childhood experiences because their parents are so financially stretched.
Staff in one Barnardos centre were shocked when pre-school children on a trip to the beach this summer did not know what to do with ice cream cones as most had never had one before.
They had ice-cream running down their hands and dripping on the ground. Many families with two or more children and no transport simply cannot afford the cost of a bus and an ice-cream for a day out.
The charity is calling on the Cabinet’s Economic Management Council to take to heart the harsh reality for families in Ireland while they are making decisions in this year’s budget.
It wants the council not to cut Child Benefit and other social welfare payments including the Family Income Supplement, One Parent Family Payment and Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.
Parents across the country are also very concerned about school uniform and book costs causing serious stress for families.
A Barnardos 2013 survey showed that 51% of parents are spending over €175 on secondary school uniform and 40% of parents are spending over €250 on secondary school books.
In addition to these high costs, parents are struggling to pay for basics like transport to get children to and from school.
Other statistics on the impact of previous budgets show that 25% of people in Ireland report running out of money to pay ordinary bills or buy food in the past 12 months (NESC 2013); and the number of households on the local authority waiting list is up 129%, from 42,946 in 2005 to 98,318 in 2011.
Another statistic shows that 63 of the recommended 107 Community Adolescent Mental Health Teams are in place but staffing is at 38% of what is recommended (CAMHs 2012).
In its Budget 2014 solutions submission Barnardos states that the Government needs to relieve the budgetary pressure on those Departments whose spending is most relevant to children’s lives such as Departments of Social Protection, Education and Skills and Children and Youth Affairs.