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CHILDREN

Dad jailed for leaving toddler in freezing car to go gambling

A Rome court has sentenced a father to jail for leaving his young child in a car during freezing weather while he played on slot machines in a local bar.

Dad jailed for leaving toddler in freezing car to go gambling
File photo of slot machines: Lisa Brewster/Flickr

An electrician and father of four has been charged with child neglect after leaving his three-year-old son alone in a car in the early hours of the morning.

A passerby spotted the toddler in the car at 3am on January 9th and alerted police.

With help from the child, they located the man, who was playing a poker video game in the bar in Ostia, a coastal city near Rome.

In court, the 34-year-old father claimed he had only been playing for around fifteen minutes after going into the bar to greet a friend, the Corriere di Roma reported.

While he waited, the child was reportedly trying to keep warm and attract attention by bouncing in his seat. He was wearing only a romper suit and the temperature at the time was -5C, as Italy has been suffering from unusually low temperatures and heavy wind and snow.

To make matters worse, the car had a smashed rear window, which had been replaced with fabric, according to Italian media.

The judge rejected a request from the defendant's lawyer to serve his sentence under house arrest. He has been sentenced to three years and four months in jail, during which time the child will stay with his mother.

Italy's gambling problem

A government report in October 2015 suggested as many as 1.3 million Italians are problem gamblers – but revealed that only 12,000 people were under treatment for addiction.

 

In early September this year, PM Matteo Renzi announced a plan to limit slot machines in Italy, including the complete removal of the machines from restaurants, hotels, beach resorts and shops, with a significant reduction in their number in bars and newsagents. The plan also included a reduction of hours during which machines can be operated and better regulation of casinos.

And over the summer, the town of Anacapri on the southern island of Capri became the first to completely outlaw slot machines after a referendum of the 6,000 islanders. Similar appeals had previously failed in the northern cities Bologna and Bergamo.

At the time, the mayor told The Local he hoped the move would persuade other towns to follow suit.

However, a volunteer with Gamblers Anonymous said that while outlawing machines in the town was a good start and might help prevent children getting involved, “compulsive gamblers will continue to find a way and can continue to buy scratchcards, bet online and place bets on sport.”

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MONEY

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

How big is the financial commitment parents have to make in Italy to pay for their offspring’s needs and expenses until they’re grown up and independent? Here's a look at the predicted costs.

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

Family is the bedrock of Italian society, but it’s also an unbalanced economic crutch, propping up children who leave home much later than most of their European counterparts.

Various factors are at play, from a declining birth rate, youth unemployment, being unable to get on the property ladder to young Italians moving abroad in search of better financial opportunities.

It probably comes as little shock, then, that parents in Italy end up forking out huge sums of cash to support their offspring through childhood and early adulthood (and beyond).

Even just up to the age of 18, raising a child in Italy can cost upwards of €320,000, according to data from Italian consumer research body ONF (Osservatorio Nazionale Federconsumatori).

The average spend of raising a child from 0-18 years is €175,642, but it rises in families with high incomes, classed as over €70,000 per year.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

Researchers noted that the cost of bringing up children has jumped up following the effects of the pandemic too: compared to 2018, child-rearing expenses increased by 1.2 percent by 2020.

The decrease in expenditure related to transport due to spending more time at home, as well as those incurred for sports and leisure activities, was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs for housing and utilities, which increased by 12 percent compared to 2018.

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Food prices rose by 8 percent compared to 2018 and education and care jumped by 6 percent for the same timeframe.

In fact, Italy ranks as the third most expensive country in the world for raising children, only coming behind South Korea and China, according to data from investment bank JEF.

The pandemic has contributed to extending an already growing phenomenon: the decrease in annual income of Italian households.

Household income dropped by 2.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, the report found, citing data from national statistics agency Istat. It marks a further squeeze for families, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Depending on earnings, the amount needed to bring up a child until the age of 18 varies considerably.

READ ALSO: ‘Kids are adored here’: What being a parent in Italy is really like

A two-parent family with an annual income of €22,500 spends an average of €118,234.15 to bring up a child until the age of 18; for the same type of family but with an average income of €34,000 per year, the total expenditure to bring up a child increases to €175,642.72.

For high-income families, stated as over €70,000 annually, raising a child costs €321,617.36 on average.

The figures mark an increase of around €5,000 for low- and middle-income families, and a much sharper rise of €50,000 for high-income families, compared to ten years ago.

The money gets spent on housing, food, clothing, health, education and ‘other’ categories. The report revealed that the average spend on a child aged 16 years old is almost €11,500 annually, amounting to €955.78 per month.

Almost €2,000 per year gets spent on food, €1,615 goes on transport and communication, €782 goes on clothing and €1,600 goes on education annually, the report found.

They begin small, yet the costs are anything but. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

For the ONF, “these data highlight how, today more than ever, having a child is becoming a luxury reserved for the few, which fewer and fewer Italians are able to afford.”

READ ALSO:

The numbers on supporting children after their 18th birthday are a little hazier, as when children eventually fly the nest varies – but figures from Eurostat show that Italy ranks third in Europe for the average oldest age at which children move out of the parental home, at 30.2 years old.

Only young people from Croatia and Slovakia wait longer to live independently, while the EU average for flying the nest is 26.4 years old.

Even then after eventually leaving home at over 30 years old, it’s not entirely clear how many Italians are fully independent once they get their own address, or whether their parents continue to bankroll their living costs.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella sent a message to Italy’s Birth Foundation (Fondazione per la Natalità) in May stating, “The demographic structure of the country suffers from serious imbalances that significantly affect the development of our society.”

In response to worsening economic circumstances, the Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help people have families and reverse Italy’s continuing declining birth rate.

It has introduced the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale), but along with it has dropped various so-called ‘baby bonuses’ that provided lump sums to new parents.

The new allowance is a monthly means-tested benefit for those who have children, or are about to have a child. It is payable from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 18 or in some cases, 21. For more information on what it is and how to claim it, see here.

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