#Budget18 case study: ‘Creche increase is the main positive change for me’

Róisín Smyth and her daughter Lainie-Grace, 2, in Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Moya Nolan

Full-time student and lone- parent Róisín Smyth, 27, rents a two-bedroom apartment with her two-year-old daughter, having previously lived in emergency accommodation.

Yesterday’s budget will make a big difference to her and her daughter Lainie-Grace.

Róisín is a second-year sociology and social policy student in Trinity and got an apartment one week before college through the housing assistance payment (HAP) scheme.

“Lainie-Grace is in the creche on campus which costs €145 per week and after means-testing I pay €50 per week. I receive child benefit and the back to education allowance. Then through the HAP scheme, I pay €27.87 a week in rent, it’s for those who have been in emergency accommodation.

“My gas and electricity bill can cost €160 per month but over the summer I didn’t have the heat on and now we leave the house at 7am in the morning for the bus and get home at 7pm so I try to limit it.

“My weekly expenses include rent, bus fare, heat — so gas and electricity, rent, childcare, groceries and nappies. Then there are unexpected expenses like the first year Lainie went to creche she picked up bugs so there was the cost of medicine,” said Róisín.

She is a success story in light of the current housing crisis.

“When I was in emergency accommodation I was on the fifth floor and I had a baby and a pram and there were no cooking or cleaning facilities.

“It was hard to stay hopeful, there were nights where I was thinking: ‘what the hell am I going to do?’ I went to 60 or 70 viewings for apartments but there is a stigma attached to the HAP scheme. I wouldn’t have gotten through that first year in Trinity if I didn’t have that apartment. It’s sink or swim.”

Róisín said she has a four-year tenancy but this was only secured through bribery of “chocolate and thank you cards” to her landlord.

The student believes that the Government needs to work with landlords to overcome the stigma associated with the HAP scheme.

She returned to education in order to “break” the cycle of poverty. “I was working in retail and two of my cousins went through the Trinity Access Programme. One of them graduated from medicine and she was younger than me. I had made the decision that I’d never be able to break the cycle of poverty if I didn’t leave retail, get a qualification and make a better life for myself.”

Róisín said that yesterday’s budget is “positive” for someone in her position. “The increase for the childcare/creche is going to be the major difference on my income. This is going to impact in a positive way due to the fact that Lainie is in full-time creche so the money allocated to this particular area will be the main positive change,” she said.

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