LW statement on '7 is too young' campaign

15 June 2012


We have been asked to explain why we voted against a motion at the NWCI AGM which asks for the removal of section 4 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2012. We would have liked to submit an amendment to the motion but our executive was unable to meet before the deadline for amendments. Below is Labour Women Chair Katherine Dunne's speech opposing the motion at NWCI.
"I want to start by saying that seven is too young for any child to be left alone without the supervision of his or her parent or another responsible adult.
I commend Frances Byrne and OPEN for their campaign which has highlighted the reduction in age limit of the youngest child of families in receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment and the effect this could have on single parent families, the majority of whom are headed by women and 40% of whom are at risk of poverty.
OPEN's campaign has rightly focused on the lack of affordable after-school childcare available to families in Ireland, the provision of which would allow more parents to work, as most have expressed a wish to do.
Indeed, an achievement of the campaign has been that when introducing the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill that contains the age reduction, the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton made a commitment that the reforms will not go ahead unless provisions for adequate affordable and accessible childcare are included in the next budget.
I understand the wariness of campaigners towards such a promise, especially when the measure to reduce the payments is already in the Act. However it is precisely because of this - that the Act is going ahead but the Minister has made a commitment regarding its implementation - that I argue that the NWCI should concentrate on a campaign to hold the Minister and her Government colleagues to that commitment. Earlier we heard the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald make similar commitments to working with Ministers Burton and Quinn on this issue.
I believe that working together with the Minister towards something on which we are all agreed in principle is more likely to succeed than calling for removal of the section of the Act that is already going ahead. I know that OPEN and the NWCI have expressed concerns regarding the practicality of introducing adequate childcare provisions in such a short timeframe. Of course the flipside to demanding the provisions is to hold the Minister to her promise NOT to proceed with the cuts if the provisions are not in place.
I believe we should support this approach as the NWCI does and should have a commitment to campaigning for the development of a quality childcare infrastructure in Ireland. Whilst Ireland spends relatively high amounts on social welfare it has a relatively low success rate at raising people out of poverty. This is a result of a lack of infrastructure and services that are more developed in other countries.
OPEN and the NWCI have stated that they do support welfare reform, once proper childcare provision is in place. I believe that this is in line with the commitment made by the Minister and that it is imperative that we hold her and her colleagues to this rather than fighting a battle we are unlikely to win."

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