Three months ago, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) urged the Government to turn its attention to supports for those in poverty, low-income earners and the vulnerable when drawing up Budget 2021.
That was July and now those supports are becoming even more urgent.
So far this year, SVP has received almost 80,000 calls requesting help and support to access the most basic of needs.
Calls were up 15% in September compared to the same time last year.
As further necessary restrictions have been imposed across the country, SVP members fear that the pandemic is worsening existing inequalities and are preparing for a surge in appeals for help with utility bills and food supplies as winter approaches.
The Society says minimum social welfare rates need to increase in next week’s Budget to prevent a growth in inequality and further hardship for households already struggling to make ends meet.
Alongside improvements in income supports, SVP want the Budget to deliver a comprehensive investment package to help address the persistent issues of homelessness and housing insecurity, educational disadvantage, energy poverty and health inequalities.
Dr. Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice said that the concentration of job losses in low paid sectors means that the impact has disproportionately fallen on groups that are least able to endure a financial hit. The situation is making life even more difficult for those who have lost their jobs as well as those trying to get by on inadequate social welfare.
She also said, “We understand the demands made on state finances but as a priority, the Government must guarantee that those already in poverty and on low incomes are not overlooked – or their situation made worse. Current social welfare rates leave hundreds of thousands of people struggling to get by and unable to afford the basics. Increasing social welfare rates would better support individuals and families and help prevent the damage caused by poverty.”
The SVP pre-budget submission ‘Investing to Save’ along with its report on "The Hidden Cost of Poverty" published the previous month, painted a stark picture of what poverty is costing Irish society, in terms of the additional spending associated with poor physical and mental health, lost opportunity, and educational disadvantage.