With austerity no longer featuring in news headlines, it is easy to forget that there are still thousands of people who continue to struggle on limited incomes. Particularly stark is that compared to 2008, 70,000 more children are growing up in poverty and are missing out on childhood experiences others take for granted. Every week we meet families caught in a poverty trap and struggling to afford basics. In 2017, one in three of the 130,000 calls to SVP for help were related to food poverty. Our experience shows that when times are tough, food is typically what families cut back. Rising housing costs mean this is increasingly the case.
SVP know from our visits that it’s not possible for anyone to have a chance in life unless they first have a secure, safe home. State investment in social housing always pays dividend by supporting citizens to work or study and bring up their children in a secure environment. But the situation is not improving. As I write this, there are currently 5,989 adults and 3,755 children homeless. We constantly are engaging with people who just want a home. Many people we meet, including those living in emergency accommodation, are working but cannot afford private rents.
We also know that education can break the cycle of poverty. But if children don’t have the materials they need to learn, or they can’t take part in activities like their friends, this negatively influence their experience of school. If we want all children to reach their potential, school costs must stop being a barrier to participation. At the same time, we need to start investing much earlier. Before children from disadvantaged backgrounds even start school, they have already fallen so far behind their peers, that it is almost impossible to make up the lost ground. For those who defy the odds and get the results they need, college may still be out of the question due to costs.
“I am asking that you look after people who have too many needs and not enough rights – people who demand with reason a greater say in public affairs, freedom from poverty, access to education and security in employment.” Blessed Frederic Ozanam
Irish society must not accept that poverty or inequality is acceptable. It is a basic human right to live with dignity, but poverty takes away that right. Our submission is a blueprint for an equal society, promised by so many in authority, and if implemented, would positively change many lives.
Click here to read the full submission.