Cuts to childcare costs very welcome, but one-off payments not enough to protect women from poverty
Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2023
In response to Budget 2024, the National Women’s Council (NWC) today (10th October) strongly welcomed a number of positive measures for women, including the childcare package and the increased investment in tackling violence against women.
It warned, however, that the modest increases in social protection payments and many one-off measures will not protect women and families from poverty and inequality in the long term.
The National Women’s Council has welcomed this year’s budget childcare package, including the 25% further cut to childcare costs which was one of the key demands of the organisation for Budget 2024. NWC would have liked to see it introduced from January as opposed to September 2024.
NWC Director Orla O’Connor said:
“A 50% reduction in childcare fees over two budgets will make a significant difference to women and families and is very welcome and urgently needed. We must now build on this investment and move towards the delivery of a public childcare model, similar to our primary school system. We know that this model has shown to be the most effective in reducing child poverty, fighting social exclusion, and being a game-changer for women’s equality. It also ensures better pay and conditions for the predominantly female workforce in the sector. We call on the Government to commit to a public childcare model following Budget 2024.”
Social Protection and Lone Parents
While one-off payments will go some way in helping women and families this winter, overall NWC is very disappointed with the measures introduced in social protection. We are particularly concerned for lone parents, the majority of whom are women.
Ms O’Connor continued:
“A €12 increase in base social protection and pension rates is simply not enough to protect people from the cost of living crisis, and tackle structural poverty and inequality. There are no structural payments for pensioners like a move to a benchmarked or universal pension, only one-off payments which will not tackle gender inequality. While the extension of child benefit to parents of 18-year-olds who are in full time education is welcome, we would have liked to see an overall increase in child benefit, which was last increased seven years ago.
“70% of the families who have been made homeless since March are lone-parent families. Only 35% of lone parents receive maintenance payments without arrears. There are no significant increases for these families, with a €4 raise in the Qualified Child Increase, alongside an even smaller one-off payment, which is far below what is needed. Many lone parents will be feeling left behind today.”
Violence against Women
€12m extra funding has been announced to tackle violence against women, including funding for the new Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Agency due to be established in January 2024.
Ms. O’Connor said "It’s very welcome to see this increase in funding in tackling our epidemic of violence against women, and specifically the funding for the new agency. It's important that the Third National Strategy on violence against women is properly costed now, and that frontline services are properly resourced."
Free Contraception and IVF
There have been no announcements on the free contraception or IVF schemes, except to ensure women will not age out of the free contraception scheme by increasing eligibility to 31 years of age. Ms O’Connor said:
“Women’s health needs will continue through 2024, despite this lack of funding and investment in the development of critical health services. We are particularly concerned that there has been no announcement on the Mother and Baby Unit, which would support women with severe and complex mental health difficulties alongside their babies.”
NWC welcomes the introduction of free Junior Cycle books and grant for part-time studies.
Orla O’Connor said: “This will be really positive for many lone parents and other families who are struggling to fund and participate in education at the moment.”
Minimum Wage and Tax Cuts
NWC welcomes the increase to the Minimum Wage but highlights that the increase must go further to meet the Living Wage.
In relation to the introduced tax cuts, Orla O’Connor said: “Women are overrepresented in many low-paid, precarious and part-time jobs, and have lower average incomes overall. While some on minimum wage may benefit from some income tax changes, the introduced income tax changes will do little to benefit women and instead favour middle and higher incomes who will see the greatest benefit.”
Ms O’Connor continued
“On climate change, what is really needed is movement on the Just Transition Commission, and gender- and poverty-proofing all climate policy. And while energy credits are welcome, we question the wisdom of paying them to higher earners while communities living in congregated settings, such as Travellers, may only receive one payment.”
NWC will release a further analysis of what this budget means for women over the coming days.
For comment: Orla O’Connor
Find here NWC’s Pre-Budget Submission: https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/National_Womens_Council_Pre-Budget_Submission_2024.pdf
Find a short summary here: https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/NWC_Pre-Budget_Submission_2024_SUMMARY.pdf
For more information, please contact Sinéad Nolan, NWC Communications and Social Media Coordinator, 085 8619087 or email@example.com
The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters.
This year we celebrate 50 years since our foundation with a special calendar of events and campaigns.
The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.
We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. Find out more on www.nwci.ie