By Ann Marie Foley - 08 October, 2014
"Looking after children is how you define a society’" - yet in Ireland today, one in ten children lives in consistent poverty.
Charities including the SVP, Barnardos, Focus Ireland and others are making last minute appeals to the Government to use next week’s budget to tackle child poverty, homelessness, and give relief to those struggling to pay everyday bills.
Research to be published by the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) will show that a combination of energy efficiency and increased incomes are needed for struggling households to afford minimum energy needs.
At the Energy Action Conference in Dublin on Monday, the SVP Head of Social Justice and Policy, John Mark McCafferty, spoke of ‘energy poverty’.
He said that while energy efficiency improvements in homes are vital, social welfare dependent households remain in poverty as they have inadequate income.
The cost of the minimum energy need in an efficient dwelling can be half that of an inefficient dwelling, so measures to improve efficiency can help reduce energy poverty, he explained.
However he warned that “Home energy prices have increased by an average of 25% in the last five years. In the same period, the limited social welfare supports available to assist some vulnerable household types afford energy have been reduced.”
Yesterday (Tuesday) Barnardos released its Children’s Budget 2015 and called on the Government to make choices that are equitable and sustainable, and that support children so they can achieve their potential.
Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos, said “Budget 2015 is crucial in how we want to shape Ireland’s recovery. As one parent told us, ‘looking after children is how you define a society’. Yet in Ireland today, one in ten children lives in consistent poverty. This is unacceptable.”
Barnardos launched a short paper Universalism – the preferred approach, outlining how universal payments and services are the most effective method of supporting all children equally.
“International evidence is compelling in showing that universal benefits such as Child Benefit, alongside a broad range of universal services is the best method for tackling child poverty,” said Brian Harvey author of the paper.
“Countries with the lowest rates of child poverty are those which have invested most in both cash benefits and public services for children. Universalism is also the most effective way to reinforce the rights of all children and clearly demonstrates how those countries value their children.”
Barnardos has highlighted four priorities which would improve children’s lives:
– Eliminating child poverty
– Tackling the housing crisis
– Investing in children’s services across the health sector
– Improvement and availability of early childhood care and education and educational supports.
“At the top of our wish list is for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to be sufficiently financed to undertake all its functions; adult social welfare rates increased to keep pace with rising cost of living and the delivery of a comprehensive housing plan to tackle the very real housing crisis affecting thousands of families,” said June Tinsley, acting Head of Advocacy, Barnardos.
Focus Ireland has again highlighted its call for the Government to invest €500 million in Budget 2015 to help deliver over 3,000 homes to help tackle Ireland’s growing homeless and affordable housing crisis.
This call was made in the Pre-Budget submission and since then new figures show that 45 families became homeless in Dublin alone in September.
Over 350 families have become homeless so far this year in Dublin – which means at least 10 children have lost their family home every week in 2014.
“The simple fact is that Government policy on rent supplement is one of the leading causes of the sharp rise of family homelessness in Ireland. The Government could help many families hold on to their homes with a stroke of a pen on Budget Day next week,” said Director of Advocacy, Mike Allen.
“It is not credible for the Government to accept the situation is at ‘crisis point’ but yet not change its policy on this key trigger of homelessness.”
Earlier this week the Insolvency Service of Ireland stated that research found many people are scrimping on food and prioritising bills but are too embarrassed to seek help.
The agency has removed its application fees which range from €100-500 until the end of 2015 to encourage people who need help to come forward.