Like every other time of national crisis in our 177-year-old history, we have continued to help people in need throughout the pandemic. We provided support to thousands of families on low or reduced incomes struggling to put food on the table, helped with heating on cold nights and assisted with internet bills and digital devices so children could keep up with school.
This pandemic has shone a light on Ireland’s incredible capacity for compassion as the Government, state agencies and community organisations worked together in the interest of the common good. It has also shone a light on, and in many cases, made worse our society’s systemic problems like poverty, educational inequality, and inadequate housing, and the different experiences people have had as a result.
We can hopefully all look forward to returning to our normal routines in the coming months as we reconnect with our friends, families, colleagues, and our communities.
However, we must not return to the pre-pandemic “normality” where almost a quarter of children are experiencing deprivation; where thousands of people have no where to call home and many more are experiencing hidden homelessness doubling up with friends and family or living in poor quality housing; where over 240,000 people cannot afford to heat their homes; and where a young person from a disadvantaged area has a less than one-in-seven chance of going to third level.
As we look beyond the pandemic, we are asking policymakers to build a better and more equal Ireland on solid foundations. A fundamental foundation is ensuring that everyone has a place to call home. It is impossible to build a good life without access to decent, affordable, warm, and secure housing.
Investing in a good quality education system, from preschool to university and also adult education, gives everyone the foundation to reach their potential.
We also need to make sure our social protection system works for everyone, that it allows all to meet their minimum needs to live with dignity and provides an anchor for people to access good quality jobs and participate in society.
In a compassionate and just society, we put things right, not just now for those who need it but also in the future. Budget 2022 must lay the foundations to give everyone the opportunity to thrive.