Public sector workers on the breadline

Ann Orr spoke to Laura who is married to a public sector worker who prior to the recent pay cuts earned €28,000 a year. They are both in their twenties and have a son who is nearly two years old.

What cuts have you been affected by over the last year?

“First, the pension levy came in. It was rolled back a bit for lower paid civil servants so we didn’t notice it as much as we had initially thought. Then the early childcare supplement got halved and we definitely noticed that.
“To be honest, one of the hardest things last year was just the media campaign against public servants, knowing that we are not privileged and quite poor and struggling and yet having to hear constant attacks in the media. After six months of that it starts to really wear you down.
“Then they came out on budget day saying that they would reduce child benefit but that families on income supplement would be protected. I knew instantly that they would find some loophole. They increased the limit of family income supplement but the change in the limit makes no difference to us. We still only get €20.”

So how much worse off are you and what impact has this had on your family?

“Between the scrapping of the Early Child Supplement, the cut in child benefit and the reduction in my husband’s wages, we’ll be down around €156 a month. Most of our income goes on rent anyway, and, we’ll just have to move, and we’re living in a quite modest place already.
“Basically the rest of our money goes on food and bills; we don’t have any left for anything else.”

Is there anything you can do to improve your situation?

“That’s the most frustrating thing because there just isn’t really anything. I would love to return to work, but I just can’t. I’m young, I had a baby shortly after I left college I don’t have much work experience, even if I was successful in finding a job it would be very low paid.
“I couldn’t afford childcare. I don’t understand why the government can’t set up crèches that are not run for profit. We would need support with childcare, rent allowance or help for me to get back to college”.