By Ann Marie Foley - 14 June, 2017
Little has changed or improved for thousands of households that seek help, according to the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
At the launch of its pre-budget submission, the charity stated that government investment in services must be prioritised because, unless the deficits in public services are addressed, the inequalities “of past and present” will deepen.
“We want to see a roadmap from government for all Irish society which ensures we are heading towards a positive and equitable future – where every child has a warm secure home, doesn’t go to school hungry, is included among their peers and receives all the necessary resources and supports at home, at school and in their communities to achieve their full potential,” said Kieran Stafford, SVP National President.
At the launch of its pre-budget submission on Tuesday (13 June 2017), the SVP said that the problem of low income, the cost of education and energy and a lack of services have made life more challenging for an increasing number of households with members both in and out of work.
Last year 130,000 calls for help were received by the SVP. In its previous pre-budget submission (for 2017) the Society stated that there were 2,300 calls to its offices seeking help every week, which gives an annual total of 119,600 calls.
According to the new budget submission, there were more that 91,000 households in need of social housing last year and 2,700 children homeless. For the previous year the charity stated that more than 6,000 people were homeless in Ireland, including over 2,000 children, and that there were more than 90,000 households on social housing waiting lists.
Figures for 2008 to 2015 show there was a 145 per cent increase in the proportion of people who cannot afford to adequately heat their homes. 2015 figures show that the SVP spent €33 million on direct assistance to individuals and families.
The 2018 pre-budget submission states that SVP members regularly visit individuals and families who are stressed because of rising rents, the threat of homelessness and making do with poor quality and inadequate housing.
The Society is calling for a continued prioritisation of investment in services over tax cuts in Budget 2018 and future budgets.
It says that a history of under investment in services has led to an over reliance on the market in the provision of essential services such as social housing. This approach has contributed to inadequate public infrastructure, impacting the extent to which people can take up employment, make work pay and stay out of poverty.
In his foreword to the submission Kieran Stafford, SVP National President, quoted the Society’s founder Frederic Ozanam, who in his day said:
“The question which is agitating the world today is a social one. It is a struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much. It is a violent clash of opulence and poverty which is shaking the ground under our feet.”
The SVP Pre-Budget Submission 2018, entitled ‘Bridging the Gap’, details 25 ways in which short-term action and longer-term investment could help rebalance inequality in Irish society.
The submission includes vital and practical action that can be taken in Budget 2018, including: increasing investment to fund the building and acquisition of social housing units; increasing Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payment in line with market rents; and more clarity on minimum energy efficiency standards in the rented sector.
It also called for an end to so-called ‘voluntary’ contributions to schools, and for third level education bringing the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) maintenance grant back in line with the cost of living.
Other suggestions include increasing the weekly allowance for children and families living in Direct Provision and proposals to help lone parents take up employment and education.