BUDGET 2016: Moves leave mum pleasantly surprised

It was described as a “family-friendly” budget aimed at reducing costs for hard-working families and, for one Cork mum, the Government yesterday succeeded. Caroline Murphy was left “pleasantly surprised”.
BUDGET 2016: Moves leave mum pleasantly surprised

Prior to the budget, the 36-year-old mum of two from Mogeely, Co Cork, criticised the Government’s lack of investment in the childcare sector and said she was pessimistic about whether it would deliver any stability to working parents.

However, Ms Murphy welcomed the investments in childcare and said it was a step in the right direction.

She said that the Government’s plan to introduce free preschool education for every child aged between three and five will hugely help. “It’s great for me because I have two kids that will benefit from the free preschool education scheme,” she said.

“I am definitely surprised with the extra year and it will be a big help for me because it will mean that I will only need someone to do half a day as opposed to a full day childminding.”

Ms Murphy also welcomed the Government’s €5 increase to the child benefit payment which will see it stand at €140 per child per month; the same rate it was when the Coalition Government came to power in 2011.

Currently on maternity leave, she has a two-month-old, Aaron, and a 23-month-old, Julianna, and will return to work next February.

Despite the increase in child benefit and the extra free pre-school year, Ms Murphy said she is already worried about the pressure that going back to work will put on her and her family.

“Paying childcare costs was a struggle already with one child so I don’t know how I’m going to manage with two,” she said.

“I feel sick, anxious, and stressed when I think about returning to work with two small kids in full-time childcare as it will be a big financial burden on my family.”

Ms Murphy is a member of Mummypages.ie — Ireland’s largest online parenting community — where she connects with other mums who have young children

In a recent survey of 1,000 mothers, carried out by the website, 45% said that the cost of childcare has prevented them from returning to work while 77% of stay-at-home parents would consider returning to the workplace full-time if childcare was more affordable.

Ms Murphy said she believes things are “very unfair” on working mothers at the moment.

“I worked very hard at my job to get the position I am currently in. I’m there over 10 years so I don’t want to just have to give up my job, but with childcare costs so high it nearly costs me to go to work now.”

Before the birth of her second child, Ms Murphy was paying a childminder €190 a week for the care of her daughter.

When she returns to work next year, she will be forking out close to €400 a week in childcare costs for her two young children.

Ms Murphy said that, in order to cover their childcare costs, her husband, who is self-employed and currently works 12-hour shifts as a taxi-driver, may have to consider working more hours.

“My husband already works long hours, 4am to 4pm, so we wouldn’t have much family time if he has to work even more.”

Ms Murphy said working parents have been hit the hardest over the last few years. “The Government needs to realise how difficult it is for families with young kids to cover childcare costs.

“Anything is better than nothing from the Government but, I mean, €5 in child benefit is not going to make a whole lot of difference to me.”

Laura Haugh, mum-in-residence for MummyPages.ie, welcomed the Government’s plans to prioritise the childcare crisis.

“The budget announcements mark an important first step in tackling our country’s long-standing national childcare crisis,” she said.

“Our mums deserve to be treated as equal members of society and up until now the lack of investment in childcare and the limited investment in early education has left nearly eight in ten mums (surveyed as part of our pre-budget research) trapped in the home because of high childcare costs.

“Today we rejoice at the landmark commitment by this Government to invest in childcare provision for children aged between 3 and 5 years and we welcome the introduction of a second preschool year for children.”

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