News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 12th April 2016

Do you think you pay too much tax? The OECD says you don’t

‘Take home pay’ exceeds salary for average Irish family thanks to child benefit. A study shows

   

A new OECD study estimates that an average couple with two children in Ireland gets more in state transfers such as child benefit than they pay in taxes and PRSI on their incomes.

A new OECD study estimates that an average couple with two children in Ireland gets more in state transfers such as child benefit than they pay in taxes and PRSI on their incomes.

While families take home around 85.4 per cent of their gross pay on average in OECD countries – when benefits are added in – the study finds that in Ireland the average family has take home pay representing 100.3 per cent of their income. This means that the OECD calculates that for many families here, state payments such as child benefit are greater than the combined cost of income tax and levies and employee’s PRSI.

The figures are based on CSO earnings data . The OECD uses annual earnings of around €35,000 for an employee in its estimates. The figures focus purely on income tax and do not include other payments such as VAT, excises or property taxes.

Overall, total taxes on income in Ireland remain low by international standards, despite the increases of recent years, according to the study. The survey, “Taxing Wages 2016”, measures the so-called “ tax wedge”, which is a measure of the tax take on income including income tax and levies and employee and employer social insurance contributions. It shows that the average tax wedge for a single employee in Ireland is 27.5 per cent of gross income, compared to 35.9 per cent for the 34 OECD countries on average. Ireland ranks as the seventh lowest of the 34 countries measured in terms of the tax wedge on income .

Counting in employers’ PRSI, the total tax wedge on a one-earner married couple with two children stood at 9.5 per cent, compared to an OECD average of 26.7 per cent. The average “ child-related benefits and tax provisions” here were twice as valuable – about 18 per cent of income – than the OECD average.

When employers’ PRSI is excluded the figures showed families actually slightly ahead on average. Also excluding employers’ PRSI , a single worker is found to face an average tax rate of 19.7 per cent, compared with an OECD average of 25.5 per cent.

The study finds that the average tax wedge here for a single worker has fallen from 28.9 per cent in 2000 to 27.7 per cent last year. However there was a large fall between 2000 and 2007, followed by a sharp rise between 2008 and 2014.

Irish Mother jailed for 4½ years over abuse of seven children

Woman who cannot be named was found guilty in January following nine-day trial.

     

A 39-year-old Irish mother of seven children has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison – with the final six months suspended – for beating, starving and neglecting her children over a five-year period.

She often left them for days on end in the care of strange men, one of whom was a paedophile.

The woman, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the children was found guilty in January following a nine-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court of 29 charges of child cruelty and neglect, by wilfully assaulting, ill-treating, neglecting, or abandoning seven of her children, or causing or allowing the children to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, or abandoned, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the children’s health or seriously affect their well-being, at six different locations on dates between September 1st, 2006, and May 12th, 2011.

Charges relating to an eighth child were withdrawn from the jury at the end of the trial. Sentencing took place on Monday afternoon, and four of the woman’s eldest children were in court for the sentence hearing, accompanied by their various foster families and care workers. They sat together at the back of the courtroom, crying at times, while their mother sat a short distance away.

The woman’s former partner, (48), who fathered two of the woman’s younger children and who cannot be identified either, was also handed down sentences yesterday – ranging from two years to six months – which were all suspended.

He had initially been jointly charged with the woman with 42 counts of cruelty and neglect, but pleaded guilty to five of the charges last December.

Two of the charges related to his own children, while the remaining charges related to three of the woman’s other children.

In their victim-impact statements, read to the court last week, the children thanked the man for being nice to them. He had often gone into the children’s room and told them he had to pretend to beat them to placate their mother. He had apologised to the children and thanked their foster parents last week for taking such good care of them now. He said he regretted not being able to protect them when they were younger.

He was sentenced to two years in prison in relation to the three charges involving the woman’s children. He was further sentenced to six months, in relation to the charges involving his own children. All of the sentences are concurrent and have been suspended for two years on condition he continue with his rehabilitation in relation to alcohol abuse.

The court was told last week that the children had forgiven the man. They chatted to him prior to his sentence hearing and they hugged him in turn afterwards the sentences were suspended.

Imposing various concurrent sentences, ranging from one year to four and a half years on their mother earlier on all 29 charges, Judge Karen O’Connor said of particular concern to the court was the fact that the children had remained “under the radar” of the authorities for so long.

The trial in January had heard that the children had first come to the attention of social workers in 2006, and while social services liaised with the family in the interim, the children were not taken into care until May, 2011.

Judge O’Connor said the mother’s attempts to blame her eldest daughter for her offending behaviour, and that all of the children were traumatised at witnessing incidents of violence against their siblings over the five-year period, were also disturbing factors in the case.

Another aggravating factor, the judge said, was that the mother had put her children through the trauma of having to give evidence at the trial. She referred to psychological reports on the children, which had indicated they had all suffered enormously, particularly one of the boys, at having to attend their mother’s trial and give evidence against her.

“A common theme too, is the children’s great sadness of being separated from each other and the family link was broken. The youngest child was 13 months old when taken into care and the older sister who cared for the younger ones was deeply traumatised. It’s clear from the victim impact reports that a plea would have helped the children,” Judge O’Connor noted.

The very serious breach of trust was another aggravating factor, the judge said. There were multiple, young victims and the prolonged violent, offending behaviour had a serious impact on them, which would continue into the future.

“One of the most disturbing factors is she sought to attribute blame for this to her eldest daughter,” Judge O’Connor added.

Recalling the graphic evidence presented to the jury in January, Judge O’Connor said the circumstances of the case were that there was general neglect and a failure to look after the most basic needs of the children. This was coupled with drunkenness; images of shabby, neglected children with their shoes falling off their feet; neighbours having to feed them; an environment of violence, an atmosphere of fear; images of very young, frightened, anxious and helpless young children being beaten or watching their siblings being beaten.

“The cumulative effect of the offending has been more damaging to the children. Neighbours were concerned and they have to be commended for their efforts in looking out for the children. Two of the women fed and clothed the children. One woman reported her concerns to social services. Another neighbour, a man, also rang social services.

“It’s of concern to the court that the children remained under the radar of the authorities for so long. Having children is a privilege. Children have rights which are recognised in the Irish Constitution,” Judge O’Connor added. She commended the children and described them as “resilient, impressive young people”.

What should you do if you suspected a child may be the subject of abuse or neglect?

     

If you have any concerns about a child you should report it to the Child and Family Agency Tusla,

? a report can be made in person, by telephone or in writing.

Any member of the public who has a concern about a child can contact the local social work duty service in the area where the child lives for advice about reporting concerns.

If a child is in danger outside office hours, you should contact the Gardaí.

Under the Protection of Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998, so long as you report what you believe is true and it is done in good faith, you cannot be sued.

Under Irish law, the Child and Family Agency has the authority to assess all reports of child abuse.

Assessments are carried out by Child and Family Agency social workers.

Tusla says: “If a child is in immediate danger such as being left at home alone, being badly beaten, being sexually abused, then there will be an immediate response”.

“This may involve the child being taken to a safe place until a full assessment is done. A safe place will often be with the extended family”.

“Only in a few cases will a child be placed in temporary foster care or Child and Family Agency residential care,” it adds.

Child and Family Agency social workers work closely with the Gardaí, who are in charge of criminal investigations.

The four types of abuse are:

  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse

Neglect

Neglect occurs where a child suffers significant harm by being deprived of such things as food, clothes, hygiene, medical care, intellectual stimulation and supervision. The neglect generally becomes apparent in different ways over time rather than at a specific point. Significant harm occurs where the child’s needs are neglected to such an extent that his/her wellbeing and/or development are severely affected.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse occurs where a child’s need for affection, approval and security is not being met by the child’s parents or carer. Examples of this are unreasonable disciplinary measures, premature imposition of responsibility and exposure to domestic violence. The effects of emotional abuse on a child are shown through the child’s behaviour, emotional state or development.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse occurs where a child is deliberately injured or is injured due to the deliberate failure of the child’s carer to protect the child. Examples of physical abuse are shaking a child, use of excessive force or allowing a substantial risk of injury to a child.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse occurs where a child is used by someone for their own, or someone else’s, gratification or sexual arousal.

A breakdown of 2013 figures

In October 2013, there were 5,886 children in care and 91% of these had an allocated social worker, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

In 2011, there was 21,040 child welfare and protection reports received by social workers – this was an increase of more than 50% since 2006.

There were increases in all child protection categories with reports for emotional abuse up by 60% from 2,500 in 2010 to 4,011 in 2011.

In 2011, 48% of the children in care were girls and 52% were boys.

The age profile was 37% aged 0-8 years, 32% between 9-13 years and 31% were aged 14-17 years.

In 2013, over half (54%) of admissions to care were due to child welfare concerns, and 46% were due to child abuse.

In 2012, there were rises in all categories of abuse as the primary reason for admission to care.

The highest proportionate rises were seen for emotional abuse and neglect.

The figures from Tusla show a drop in the number of children in care for 2013.

Buncrana hero and pier tragedy mum to take part in charity marathon together

Hero Davitt Walsh holding baby Rioghnach.

     

The Buncrana pier hero Davitt Walsh (above left holding baby Rioghnach-Ann) is to join tragic mum Louise James in running a marathon to raise money for charity.

Louise lost five members of her family, including her husband and two young sons, when their car went off the slipway at the Co Donegal pier.

Unimaginable grief: Louise James with partner Sean McGrotty, sons Mark and Evan and baby Rioghnach-Ann who was saved.

Sean McGrotty (46), sons Evan (8) and 12-year-old Mark, Louise’s mother Ruth Daniels (57) and Ruth’s 14-year-old daughter Jodie Lee Daniels all drowned in the tragedy.

Davitt Walsh (28) saved four-month-old Rioghnach-Ann after jumping into Lough Swilly when the car went into the water.

Over 100 runners are now competing in the Belfast Marathon to honour those five family members whose lives were lost.

Davitt and Louise will be taking part in the poignant sports event on Monday, May 2, and will compete a leg of the race together.

Under the banner ‘#TeamEvan’, these supporters will be raising money for Muscular Dystrophy, an illness Louise’s son Evan suffered from.

The group have created a web-page so that people can donate money online.

Investing in treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a 400% return

  

Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year; countries and development partners to discuss way forward during World Bank-WHO events

Every unit of currency invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of 400% in better health and ability to work, according to a new WHO-led study which estimates, for the first time, both the health and economic benefits of investing in treatment of the most common forms of mental illness globally.

The study, published today in “The Lancet Psychiatry”, provides a strong argument for greater investment in mental health services in countries of all income levels.

“We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “We must now find ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”

Depression and anxiety disorders are increasing?

Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%, from 416 million to 615 million. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected, and mental disorders account for 30% of the global non-fatal disease burden. Humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict add further to the need for scale-up of treatment options. WHO estimates that, during emergencies, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.

Returns on investment in treatment far outweigh the costs?

The new study calculated treatment costs and health outcomes in 36 low-, middle- and high-income countries for the 15 years from 2016-2030. The estimated costs of scaling up treatment, primarily psychosocial counselling and antidepressant medication, amounted to US$ 147 billion. Yet the returns far outweigh the costs. A 5% improvement in labour force participation and productivity is valued at US$ 399 billion, and improved health adds another US$ 310 billion in returns.

However, current investment in mental health services is far lower than what is needed. According to WHO’s “Mental Health Atlas 2014” survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.

“Despite hundreds of millions of people around the world living with mental disorders, mental health has remained in the shadows,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “This is not just a public health issue — it’s a development issue. We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”

Finance and development actors meet to consider a scale-up

A series of events, being co-hosted by the World Bank and WHO on 13-14 April, as part of the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington DC, is bringing ministers of finance, development agencies, academic experts and practitioners together to discuss how to put mental health at the centre of the health and development agenda globally and in countries.

The event aims to kick-start an increase in investments in mental health: investments by governments, development agencies and civil society. It also includes an Innovations Fair showcasing feasible, affordable and cost-effective ways to improve mental health care around the world.

During the events, countries which have been successful in scaling up mental health care will present the challenges they faced and how they were overcome. Examples include: Brazil, which has developed a psychosocial care network; Ethiopia, which is rapidly scaling-up training and provision of mental health care across the country; and South Africa, where mental health care and treatment form an integral component of the country’s re-engineered primary health care system.

“Mental health needs to be a global humanitarian and development priority — and a priority in every country,” said Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry at Harvard University and an expert on global mental health. “We need to provide treatment, now, to those who need it most, and in the communities where they live. Until we do, mental illness will continue to eclipse the potential of people and economies.”

Scaling up mental health services will contribute to achievement of 1 of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, endorsed at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015: by 2030, to reduce by one third premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.

Meanwhile:– 

Health experts now say daily stress can lead to type 2 diabetes

       

Be it physical or emotional, taking unnecessary stress can not only give you headache or neck pain but, if left unattended for long, can also trigger elevation in blood sugar levels leading to Type 2 diabetes, health experts have now warned.

Owing to changes in lifestyle and daily routine, stress is now seen as a reason behind several health hazards, including the rise in diabetes in India.

Marked stress causes release of several stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which, in turn, increase levels of sugar in blood apart from spiking blood pressure and pulse rate.

“If stress is consistently high, previously transient sugar elevation becomes persistently high, resulting in diabetes. Similarly, blood pressure elevation becomes elevated constantly. Stress also causes change in eating pattern, resulting in ‘binge eating’, thus increasing weight which may also add to elevation of blood sugar,” Dr. Anoop Misra, Chairman, Fortis C-DOC, told IANS.

Stress can affect diabetes control, both directly and indirectly. It is widely recognised that people with diabetes are regularly stressed and are more likely to have poor blood glucose control.

“Both physical and emotional stress can prompt an increase in these hormones which result in an increase in blood sugar”, Dr. Sunil Mittal, senior psychiatrist and director, Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences in the capital, told IANS.

Shared stress can also lead to similar dysregulation of hormones in children. If they are under constant stress in the home environment, children may have a similarly dysmetabolic state.

“According to recent findings, stress hormones cause an epigenetic change in sperm. So when a father is stressed out, his hormones pack the potential to raise his offspring’s blood sugar levels. With higher blood glucose levels comes a higher diabetes risk, especially Type 2 diabetes,” noted Dr. Ajay Kumar Ajmani, senior consultant (endocrinology) at BLK Super Speciality Hospital.

The primary function of these hormones is to raise blood sugar to help boost energy when it’s needed the most.

Think of the fight-or-flight response. One possibly can’t fight danger when their blood sugar is low, so it rises to help meet the challenge. Both physical and emotional stress can prompt an increase in these hormones, which results in an increase in blood sugar levels.

Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help combat and cope up with stress which reduces the risk of being diabetic or help to keep diabetes in control.

“One should do more of physical activities, like yoga, gymming and dancing. Aerobics and Pilates are great stress busters too. Make a few food changes like having a plenty of fibre and choosing whole grains. Avoid packaged foods and junk foods. Most importantly, take a break from your regular routine and plan some family outings,” Ajmani suggested.

Diabetes is a lifestyle disorder and becoming increasingly common these days.

“Intermittent stress relief in small time frames several times of day (10-15 minutes each) may be acquired with chores that you enjoy the most like music or playing your favourite sports. Mediation helps a lot too,” Misra added.

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