Austerity Hits Women Hardest, why am I not surprised #budget15 #dail

The Great Gatsby. F.Scott Fitzgerald.

The Great Gatsby. F.Scott Fitzgerald. © agsmaoineamh.com

I find the reports in the National papers very disingenuous today. Apparently cuts in Child Benefit of 25% over the past five years have resulted in gender income imbalances, with women, surprise surprise, coming out the worst.

These are the same media outlets that five years ago provided a simple narrative for the public; that all women fell into one of two categories;

Category one spent child benefit on booze and cigarettes (based an advertisement by a Centra store for low cost alcohol on child benefit day);

Category two put child benefit payments into trust funds for their children (based on the testimony of two guests on the Pat Kenny show in 2009).

The child benefit allowance was cut, ‘and so it should be‘, screamed the masses.

Anecdotal stories plagued the media, especially phone-in shows like Joe Duffy; “I see them every month, twisted by four o’clock in the afternoon“, one caller would recount, “boxes of fags under the arms“.

The media narrative in 2009 was this; the nation was disgusted with mothers and the shenanigans they got up to every month. This gave the government an opportunity  to proceed with cuts to child benefit.

Most ordinary women, mothers, I know, were perplexed. I was perplexed.

Each month, child benefit allowance has and tries now to cover clothing, foot-ware, stocking the freezer, stocking the larder cupboard, paying back credit union loans for Christmas and school expenses (one of the most continually, financially draining aspects of raising children).

The cuts to child benefit predominantly had the result of less spending in local towns, forcing small shops to reduce staff, or in extreme circumstances; close altogether (Let’s face it, if you have €60 to feed a family for a week, you are not going to go buy a loaf of bread locally for €2.70 when a discount supermarket sells them at €0.69).

Yes, women have suffered hardest with austerity; financially, but also mentally, physically and emotionally. They have lost family members to suicide, they remain the lowest paid workers in the country, and face ridicule if they choose either freely, or economically to stay home and raise their children (if someone meets you for the first time and asks you what you do and you reply, ‘I’m a mother’, watch the confusion on their face, it just seems that focusing on raising your children rather than paying someone else to do it, is an alien concept!)

I’ll leave you with this interesting piece of trivia to ponder;  the word ‘hussy’, derived from the word housewife, why?

hussy
ˈhʌsi,ˈhʌzi/
noun
noun: hussy; plural noun: hussies
  1. an impudent or immoral girl or woman.
    “that brazen little hussy!”
    synonyms: minx, madam, coquette, tease, seductress, Lolita, Jezebel; More

Origin
late Middle English: contraction of housewife (the original sense); the current sense dates from the mid 17th century.

The Stupidity and Brutality of Governments.

Legit

Fed up with underfunded public services and recruitment moratoriums while the budgets for shared services increase each year (that’s contracted private service providers).

If you’ve ever applied for a discretionary medical card, housing, a school bus ticket when you live 0.3km closer to one school than your school of choice; you will know the frustration and feelings of revolt it incites having to deal with government departments and their operational guidelines.

It makes you want to scream to the automaton at the other end of the phone; have you never heard of the principles of legitimacy?

The Principles of Legitimacy (as told by Malcolm Gladwell in David & Goliath)

1. The people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice – that if they speak up, they will be heard.

2. The law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same rules as today.

3. The authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.

So your urge to become a revolutionary is not unfounded. In the words of Séan MacStiofáin, ‘most revolutions are not caused by revolutionaries in the first place, but by the stupidity and brutality of governments’.

Think €350 is bad, how about €1,000 per pupil on the School Bus scheme?

Wordle: McCarthy Report into School Bus Transport

The Department of Education and skills, Value for Money Report into the School Transport scheme, published in March 2011, took into account recommendations from the McCarthy Report, published 16th July, 2009.

An Bord Snip Nua was formed after the banking crisis forced Ireland into an IMF bailout. The troika insisted that ways were found to reduce public spending and the The McCarthy Report was hatched. It recommended the following in relation to the school bus transport scheme;

E.1 Reduce allocation to school transport (p71, part 2)

The School Transport Scheme is a major transport operation which runs every school day over a large number routes carrying 135,000 pupils to primary and post primary schools….the average cost per pupil carried is estimated to be closer to €1,000 per annum. The charge for post-primary pupils transported will be €300 per annum from September 2009, while primary pupils will continue to be carried free of charge.

The Group considers that there should be a much greater contribution paid towards the cost of providing the school transport service. Also, charges should be introduced in respect of the primary school transport system. The Group recommends that a charge should be levied, at both primary and post-primary level, at a rate of 50% of the full economic cost of providing the service. This would be likely to be of the order of €500 per annum per child. (An exemption for social welfare recipients would continue to apply).

This charge could be increased over time to improve the rate of cost recovery for the service.

Overall, the Group estimates that the levying of school transport charges as outlined above could reduce the Exchequer subsidy by up to €29m annually. However, if a new maximum family charge were to apply, this level could reduce to about €25m.

There is also scope to change the eligibility conditions for the general scheme by providing transport only to the nearest schools instead of the nearest school of choice. The Group also concludes that consideration be given to an eligibility means test to determine those customers who can/should pay the full economic cost (€1,000), rather than only 50% of that cost.

(McCarthy Report, 2009)

So there appears a very real possibility that measures brought into appease the troika by Fianna Fáil and propagated by the Fine Gael and Labour government, if unchallenged, may lead to families being forced to pay up to a €1,000 per child for a seat on the school bus. Of course this may not be introduced yet, there is a General Election in 2016 after all. But who’s to say these charges won’t be increased after that election? After all, promises made during an election campaign can be broken, sure isn’t that what you tend to do in an election!