By Ann Marie Foley - 26 January, 2016
SVP head of social justice calls for adequate income supports and good quality public services such as housing, education and energy.
The SVP has called on politicians to prioritise a fair, inclusive and sustainable recovery in their election policies.
In his blog, published yesterday (25 January), John-Mark McCafferty, SVP Head of Social Justice, stated that 100 years since the Rising “the 32nd Dáil needs to commit that, over the life of the Government, adequate income supports and good quality public services (housing, education and energy) are accessible to the people we assist, whether they are in employment on low pay or in receipt of social welfare.”
He called for politicians to ensure adequate income for every household and family by increasing social welfare payments, tackling low pay, and improving cost and availability of services.
Specific measures required are the restoration of ‘earnings disregard’ for the One Parent Family Payment and Jobseekers Transition Payment to €146.50 and an increase child income support payments for older children/teenagers.
There should be full implementation of the Social Housing Strategy 2020 with quality social housing for families with children and a review on delivery against 2016 waiting list figures.
As regards education, John-Mark McCafferty called for the delivery of the promised single subsidised childcare scheme from 2017.
This should replace existing schemes for pre-school and school-going children, and should have more simplified eligibility based on income.
He specifically called for increased investment in early years care and education from the current low base of 0.13% of GDP to the OECD average of 0.8%, over a series of budgets to create an affordable quality early years care and education sector.
The SVP spokesman also wants improvements to the eligibility and funding for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s (SEAI) Warmer Homes Scheme and Sustainable Energy Communities Programme.
This should target low income households for energy efficiency improvements, especially in the private rented sector.
There also needs to be a regular National House Quality Survey to inform housing and energy policy.
Last week at the ‘Stand for Social Justice’ event with politicians and co-hosted with Trócaire and Social Justice Ireland, John-Mark McCafferty said that tackling energy poverty has benefits far beyond keeping homes warm.
“There are financial, health, employment and environmental benefits to people from improved household efficiency and education.”
“An inter-departmental approach is needed that includes departments and agencies responsible for energy policy, funding and delivery, and those departments to whom the benefits arising from energy efficient accrue, for example the Department of Health and the Department of Jobs and Innovation,” he said.
Also at that meeting were Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland, and Lorna Gold, Head of Policy & Advocacy with Trócaire.
Lorna Gold spoke about energy and said, “As detailed in the Energy White Paper, fossil fuels will be largely replaced by renewable energy sources by 2050 and eventually we will have to generate 100% of all our energy needs from clean sources.”
“Therefore, an integral aspect of Ireland’s response to climate change in 2016 must be directed at immediately decreasing our dependency on fossil fuels and increasing investment in, and use of, clean energy alternatives.”
She said that a policy framework is required to ensure the overseas aid target of 0.7% is met by 2020.
That will change the lives of millions of people across the world and help put many countries on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
The three charities believe that future tax and spending policy should prioritise the building of Ireland’s social infrastructure.
“There is a real danger that Irish society will permit those on the lowest incomes, and in particular those dependent on social welfare, to fall behind once again, as it did in the late 1990s,” said Seán Healy, Director, Social Justice Ireland.
He cautioned it would be a great mistake for Ireland, and Irish policy makers, to repeat this experience.