Protests to halt cuts in child benefit

A NATIONAL protest campaign intent on reversing Government plans to cut child benefit is to be waged in the build up to December’s budget.

As public anger against Government policy grows, a strategy meeting was told it will take an aggressive public movement over the coming weeks to save the universal payment.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland, which hosted the meeting, said there was no way mothers could accept any change to the benefit payment without a fundamental reform of childcare and welfare structures.

It was decided to ask its 300,000 strong lobby to:

* Turn out in strength for the national protest march in Dublin on September 30.

* Directly lobby vulnerable TDs and regional media.

* Engage directly with the Department of Finance with a comprehensive pre-budget statement.

* Circulate a mass petition which will be handed to the Government in November.

The meeting at Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin included representatives from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, SIPTU, the ISPCA, the Irish Nurses Organisation and Pavee Point. Women’s groups also came from Longford, Limerick, Clare, Fingal and Clondalkin.

The parents’ group fighting benefit cuts, PACUB, was also present. It is organising a protest march on September 19.

NWCI head of policy Orla O’Connor said anger at the changes to child benefit and other suggested measures was not confined to one sector or limited to specific interest groups.

She said the challenge was to harness that emotion in the narrow window left to influence budget decisions.

“What you could see from the meeting was the diversity of groups and diversity of individual women who feel strongly about this.

“And now it is about using that diversity to try and force some change before the budget. This is about women standing up and not accepting the cuts,” she said

The two protest marches this month will be the first barometer of the feeling against the proposals to tax, means-test or cut child benefit as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan mulls over the content of his budget.

The NWCI last night launched its pre-budget statement demanding a range of cuts affecting women and children be scrapped. It said women will be worst hit by the recommendations included in the reports of An Bord Snip Nua and the Commission on Taxation.

This was because women are disproportionately represented in the caring and social service professions, which are more reliant on state funding, it said.

Yesterday more than 1,000 protesters marched on the Department of Finance. The campaign, organised by community development projects, called for a stop on cuts to programmes supporting disadvantaged areas.

Meanwhile the Community Platform, the pillar of the social partnership process which lobbies for the voluntary sector, said it supports those fighting to retain child benefit.

The group comprises such groups as the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed, Irish Rural Link, Focus Ireland and Age Action.


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