The European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland, an alliance of over 250 national and local organisations, has welcomed provisions in the budget announced on 11 October 2016, which will mitigate some of the impact of policies of the last eight years on people on low incomes. However, the Network argued that it will take much more than a scatter-gun approach, giving slight increases when more money is available, to rebuild communities devastated by austerity measures and build a more inclusive society.
The network welcomed the increase of €5 in welfare payments to those over 25 but deplored the failure to fully restore the payments to 25s and younger, cut in previous budgets. We also welcomed the partial restoration of the Christmas bonus (from 75% to 85%) as well as the partial reinstatement of the income disregard for lone parents.
Director Robin Hanan said:
“This is a welcome sign that the Government understands the damage done to people’s lives by the cuts to welfare benefits. It is important that this is followed by a serious medium-term plan to raise all incomes to the level required to reach the widely accepted Minimum Essential Standard of Living [see http://www.budgeting.ie/]. It is particularly worrying that cuts in the income of young people and lone parents have not been fully restored.”
The network also welcomed new supports for services which will particularly benefit people on low incomes.
Paul Ginnell, Policy Officer, added:
“In particular, the Affordable Childcare Scheme, the pre-school schemes and the increases in the Housing Assistance Payment will start to fill gaping needs, as will the provisions for homeless services and housing. Members are concerned at the overall cuts in taxation. Ireland already has a low overall tax take, and this is reflected in historically poor public services like housing, education and transport which affect the poor most. We will never rebuild an inclusive society on the basis of continuing tax cuts.”
We need a concerted strategy to ending poverty, not a scattergun approach
Robin Hanan said:
“The Network is concerned at the lack of a clear strategy to ensure that the different elements of the budget work together to reduce poverty and create a more inclusive society. This must involve full poverty and equality impact assessment of Budgets and other policies before they are agreed, as committed in the Programme for Government.”
“There is a lack of urgency in the approach to alleviating poverty. Almost three out of ten people in Ireland and more than a third of all children are experiencing material deprivation, that is not being able to afford the minimum that is agreed as necessary for a decent life.
“Scattergun policies, giving a little to everyone, will not deliver the type of inclusive society which we need. We hope that these points will be addressed in the Oireachtas debates and in drawing up the new National Action Plan for inclusion”
See also: EAPN Ireland Briefing on poverty and proposals for 2016-2021
For more information, please contact Robin@eapn.ie