The sixth austerity budget inflicted on the country was today described as particularly anti-women.
Maternity benefits will in future be taxed; children’s allowances are reduced; respite grants – most of which go to women caring for elderly parents or sick children – will also be pared back.
The National Women's Council of Ireland today said the budget – which axed maternity benefit by up to €800 and sliced €10 off child benefit – was “completely anti-women and children”.
"The cumulative effect of cuts to maternity, PRSI, child benefits and back to school allowances will have a simply devastating effect on women in this country," director Orla O'Connor told the Herald.
Other controversial measures announced by Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin include the scrapping of the PRSI allowance meaning all those above the minimum wage will pay €264 per year, hikes in excise duty on cigarettes and alcohol, the introduction of the property tax and changes to motor tax.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has also landed herself in hot water after claiming families affected by cuts to the clothing and footwear allowance can get "good value in shops".
For Amy Cunningham, Budget 2013 will set her back €70 a month from the respite care grant, child benefit and the telephone and fuel grant.
At the same time, she will be forced to pay more for the medicine little Ellie (6) needs to make her life more comfortable.
Amy (26) from Clondalkin is representative of the vast majority of parents, workers and elderly people who are struggling under the burden of cuts today.
"It is always the sick, disabled and old that are affected. I feel betrayed," she told the Herald.
Today, the budget was described as particularly "anti women".
Families are facing a cut of up to a third in the back to school allowance -- which is seen as crucial in dealing with the huge costs associated with going to school.
During a post budget meeting on the cuts in her department, Ms Burton said concerned parents can get "good value in shops in relation to clothing and footwear".
Her spokeswoman was unable to clarify the comment when contacted by the Herald today.
But it is families like the Cunninghams who'll be hardest hit.
Lone parent Amy explained that her daughter was born deaf and blind, she has brain damage and severe cerebral palsy with oesophageal varices on her stomach where the veins fill with blood and swell.
The little girl is currently at a stage of liver failure and regularly visits LauraLynn House -- Ireland's first children's hospice.
Amy was forced to give up her job to care for Ellie on a 24/7 basis. She says that this "harsh" Budget cuts right to the heart of her own household purse.
"I know you dread the Budget but this year it really affects me in various ways," Amy said.
"I wrote them all down. The respite care grant, the cut in child welfare allowance, the telephone and fuel grant and the increase in prescription charges, they all affect us.
"Ellie is on 14 different medicines. Half of the medicine is only every second week, but it will add a lot to our bill," she said.
"At the moment overall I come out with about €340 a week. But I will be on a lot less now."
Amy says that she fears she will have to resort to desperate measures.
"It would make you want to leave her there the next time that she is in hospital. To say to the hospital 'I can't take her home,'" she said.
"I have a child who needs palliative care. You need a nurse to sit in the room with her all the time when she is in the hospital.
"At home, I have to be there 24 hours."
"My HSE help hours have been cut, other allowances cut and now this."
Amy feels that the Government could have targeted other areas more effectively.
"Why couldn't the have put up the cost of the cigarettes up by 75c?
That might stop these people costing the hospitals more money," she said.
"It is always the sick, disabled and old that are affected.
"I feel betrayed," she added.
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