Putting Families and Children First
Family First is a project of the Mother and Child Campaign and it aims to inform Irish families and enable them to work together for a better deal for families. We believe that a secure society requires strong families and that the State needs to invest in familes and children. Irish families make many sacrifices to care for their children at home. The State penalises the single-income family by forcing them to pay more tax – up to E5,460 more every year.
Families are suffering discrimination. It’s time for them to fight back.
The Family First Project
Most families are busy raising their children and making ends meet – which makes it all the easier for feminists, big business and other tax-payer funded lobbyists to force through anti-family measures. The 2006 Budget, published in December 2005, was supposed to follow the discriminatory trend set by tax individualisation in granting payments to double-income families who placed their children in commercial childcare, while offering households with parents at home nothing.
Demands for State-sponsored extra-domiciliary childcare had been made by the National Women’s Council of Ireland whose September 2005 report An Accessible Childcare Model described home duties as a burden. They won praise and promises of support from Minister of State for Justice Frank Fahey who also said he was not aware of any plan to support mothers at home and single-income families.
It seemed as if single-income families, already being penalised by the tax system, were about to get whacked again. A strong, nationwide campaign was needed to protect and defend the family and to organise families to lobby and respond to the discrimination they were enduring. The Family First project provided that campaign.
Firstly we wrote a lengthy and detailed submission to the Minister for the Family and Social Affairs, Seamus Brennan. We pointed out that Bunreacht na hEireann gives special status to the family and the mother at home but that successive governments had introduced a raft of anti-family policies. We argued that the Minister should examine the best interests of children, the needs of families, and the looming population crisis, simultaneously, before the December 2005 budget was finalised.
The submission dealt with the importance of the family; the falling birth rate; the effects of commercial childcare on children; the proportion of Irish mothers (and fathers) caring for their children at home; the real preferences of mothers; the discrimination currently experienced by single income families; and the lack of State funding for pro-family organisations.
The submission contained the following recommendations:
- Tax individualisation should be scrapped;
- A child tax credit must be re-introduced,
- Any payments or benefits for families or children must be universal and not confined to double-income families,
- Affordable housing must be a government priority,
- Funding be allocated to family groups and organisations representing full-time mothers to undertake research and provide representation.
We then printed a version of that submission in a 24-page booklet – Who Cares for Families and Children. The booklet gives up-to-date and pertinent information on a range of issues, including supporting families, caring for children and why the State needs your children as future taxpayers.
We also produced a 4 page information leaflet for general distribution.
Implementing the Family First Project
Our full-colour 24-page booklet was sent, with a 10-point submission addressed to Séamus Brennan, to 8,000 people initially, so that they could read the information and make their own submissions.
20,000 booklets were distributed in total. We wanted this campaign to reach as many people as possible. To do so we produced a leaflet for general distribution that explained the punitive effect of tax individualisation and asked people to lobby against the discriminatory proposals which would give nothing to single-income families.
These leaflets, and the accompanying 10-point submission, were sent to co-ordinators in every county and an intensive distribution began. More than 75,000 pieces of information were given out within seven weeks.
Information stalls were held in busy shopping areas; a crucial part of the campaign since there is little point in producing information without taking the time to distribute it and to talk to people regarding these important issues. We were delighted by the warm reception our Family First material received and heartened by the support for the family evident from the reaction to our campaign.
Family First Website
Making campaigning easier, and making information easily accessible, was essential to this project, as it is to all our work in this day and age. The Family First website allowed people to send emails to their politicians with one click of a mouse, and also gave interested parties the opportunity to download the booklet, leaflet and submission. We posted regular news updates to the website so that users could keep abreast of developments. It attracted thousands of visitors and we received hundreds of emails from families who are ready to become active in campaigning. This website will continue to play an important role in our family projects.
Family First Newspaper Advertisements
We also booked advertisements in local newspapers explaining the issues to readers and encouraging them to campaign. These adverts were estimated to reach almost a quarter of a million people. As our campaign intensified, families began to pressure the Minister as never before. They had found a vehicle with which they could be informed and make their voices heard and were using it with a vengeance.
There was a direct correlation between the rise of the Family First Project and the about-turn in Government attitude. Senior ministers began to say that single-income families had to be catered for and An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said he would not discriminate against full-time mothers in any childcare measures. Three months of intensive campaigning had paid off.
But there is a lot more to do and the Budget had some serious deficiencies, including the continuation of enormous capital expenditure grants to commercial childcare providers, to the tune of €500 million While tax-individualisation exists families will be under pressure to leave their children in crèches, and indeed, to have less children. The greatest gift of God, a baby, is being to denied to families, especially young families.
Reading the Family First Booklet