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New SVP campaign demands an end to austerity budgets

By Sarah Mac Donald - 16 July, 2013

"Sneaky" changes to entitlements and delays in processing claims are adding to the burden of struggling families.

John-Mark McCafferty, SVP Head of Social Justice & Policy (left) with Geoff Meagher, SVP National President

John-Mark McCafferty, SVP Head of Social Justice & Policy (left) with Geoff Meagher, SVP National President

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has urged the public to support its ‘Make Your Voice Heard’ campaign which is demanding an end to austerity budgets.

 The campaign was launched online on Monday at www.svp.ie/yourvoice

In his quarterly commentary on social justice, the SVP National President, Geoff Meagher said, “The people we assist and those who are struggling throughout Ireland have suffered enough. We urge all those who want fairness and an end to austerity budgets to go online and make their voice heard.”

He added that the people of Ireland in and out of work deserve a living income, but he warned that the level of austerity imposed over the last six budgets had made this aspiration impossible for thousands of individuals and families.

“We acknowledge that our public finances must be placed on a sustainable path. But we believe that the Government can choose to close the gap between Ireland’s revenue and expenditure while protecting vulnerable people and the services they rely on.”  

According to the SVP National President, “The Government should seriously examine the alternative options available in the areas of stimulating growth, improving efficiencies and generating revenue from corporations and individuals with higher incomes and assets that can afford to make a greater contribution to Ireland’s recovery.”

Geoff Meagher said it was the responsibility of the Government to lead and make choices which would tackle Ireland’s budget deficit in a fair and equitable way.

“But to-date there appears to be a single-minded approach that austerity is the solution. Clearly that approach is not working for thousands of people in Ireland,” he said.

The SVP’s key message for Budget 2014 is that further cuts to the budgets of government departments which impact negatively on the services needed by individuals, families and communities in Ireland are unacceptable.

“Stimulating growth through employment creation is essential for our economic recovery. As a people we also need hope, but a continuous adherence to austerity measures does nothing to offer hope to the unemployed, the families struggling to make ends meet or the young people who believe that their only opportunity to earn a decent living is to emigrate.”

He said the SVP’s social justice team intended to put their views “very strongly” to the Troika when they met them on Monday.

“The Troika consistently tell us that the size of the cuts and tax changes are the choice of the Irish Government, as long as the overall adjustments agreed with the Troika are made. So austerity measures which reduce social protection spending and axe services are the Government’s choices,” he said.

Mr Meagher added that in addition to the cuts in benefits and services there have been “sneaky changes to entitlements and delays in processing claims for educational, health and social welfare supports.”  These, he suggested, had added to the burden of people struggling on low incomes.

“Delays in processing Family Income Supplement, student grants, invalidity pension, and carers allowances; and lengthy waiting times for appeals are unacceptable. But there are more insidious changes taking place that are also unfair on the most vulnerable, the disabled, carers and low income families,” he commented.

He also warned that increases in student charges, and cuts  to school capitation grants, exceptional needs payments and fuel allowance, all happen outside the glare of publicity and that changes to the One Parent Family Payment and Jobseekers Benefit, the PRSI Allowance and the household benefits package deepen the struggles of low income households.

“Each change may only affect a relatively small number of people. But they are often the most vulnerable and the cumulative impact adds to their worry,” he said.

“More and more SVP members visiting homes throughout the country are finding themselves spending as much time providing comfort and reassurance to families as they do providing tangible support.” he said.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul is the biggest charitable organisation in Ireland and has over 10,500 volunteers active throughout Ireland and is committed to working for the changes required to create a more just and caring society.

By Sarah Mac Donald

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