Maternity benefit: young mothers an ‘easy target’

Calls for gender-proofing of future budgets

Caroline Roche at home in Cahir, CoTipperary: “It disgusts me”

Caroline Roche at home in Cahir, CoTipperary: “It disgusts me”


Caroline Roche (32) from Cahir, Co Tipperary, is expecting her first baby in two months. Soon to be dependent on maternity benefit for her income she now knows what it is like to belong to an minority group.

With her baby due mid-December, she will just escape the €30 per week cut to maternity benefit, which comes into force on January 1st.

But it will affect her when she decides to have another baby. She will get €262 a week throughout her maternity leave, but if she was having her baby two weeks later she would have been getting just €230 a week.

“It disgusts me. When I heard about this on Tuesday afternoon I thought it would be all over the news. Then hardly anyone was talking about it. I just thought, ‘God, this is what it’s like to be in a minority group’.

“They can cut mothers’ benefits and no one makes a fuss. We’re just another soft touch, like the disabled – an easy target because they know pregnant women and mothers of babies are not going to be out protesting. We’re just too tired.”

Relying on benefit
A factory operator in Waterford, she leaves home at 4am three days a week. Her maternity benefit will not be topped up by her employer so while she cares for her new baby, her benefit will be her only personal income. She says people not personally affected by such cuts “just don’t get it”.

“Even my partner, when I told him how angry I was, he said, ‘Ah we’ll be grand,’ that we had his income too. But I don’t want to be dependent on his income. I have worked since I was 18. I have paid my taxes. I want my independence. This is absolutely a personal attack on women . . . When I hear things like this I think, ‘Why do I bother? Why don’t I give in, get the mammy-house and be dependent on my partner like they seem to want us to be? I am so angry about this.”

The cut to maternity benefit, which will amount to a loss of more than €800 to a woman over the course of a six-month maternity leave, continued the trend of the past seven austerity budgets which have seen a disproportionate share of the burden being put on women, said Orla O’Connor, director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.