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Government urged not to neglect those living in poverty in the forthcoming budget.

With a business stimulus package about to be launched the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) has urged the Government to turn its attention to supports for those in poverty, low-income earners and the vulnerable when drawing up Budget 2021.

The SVP pre-budget submission ‘Investing to Save’ launched today (16th July 2020) focusses on five main areas: Housing and Homelessness, Income and Employment, Education, Energy and Climate Justice, and Healthcare.

In launching the document, SVP National President Kieran Stafford said, “We are now receiving over 15,000 calls for help each month, and these include individuals and families who have lost their jobs and are worried about the rent and utility bills. 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.”

“Our members are seeing first-hand how the pandemic is worsening existing inequalities in our society and making life even more difficult for those trying to get by on an inadequate income.” he continued.

Dr. Tricia Keilthy SVP Head of Social Justice said, ‘As we face what may become the greatest and deepest economic recession in modern history, concern is growing among SVP members who have seen first-hand the impact the last economic crisis and austerity policies had on struggling households. As a priority, the new Government must guarantee that those already in poverty and on low incomes are not overlooked – or their situation made worse – as the economy recovers.”

She said that SVP does not underestimate the serious economic challenges that lie ahead but that austerity isn’t inevitable; “This is an opportunity to do things differently and we must now support economic and social recovery through investment in Ireland’s social infrastructure. Projects such as the retrofit of social housing, the development of rural public transport networks and the building of new social housing by local authorities would not only help tackle poverty and the housing crisis, but they would also create employment, stimulate economic activity, and assist in meeting our climate change targets.”

To ensure the principles of equality, justice and fairness underpin all policy and budgetary choices as Ireland emerges from the pandemic, SVP is asking that the Minister for Finance on budget day publishes a report outlining how the proposed tax and expenditure changes will help address poverty and inequality.

This would be part of a Poverty Reduction Act which SVP is asking the new Government to commit to introducing within their first 100 days of office. This Act would also: 

  • Make the ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals of No Poverty by 2030 legally binding

  • Set a new ambitious child poverty target for 2025 

  • Place poverty proofing and equality budgeting on a statutory footing to ensure all policies and programmes at design and implementation are assessed in relation to their likely impact on people living in poverty

  • Establish a Special Oireachtas Committee on Poverty and Inequality to monitor the implementation of the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025

  • Develop and properly resource annual cross-governmental action plans to ensure Ireland reaches the target of reducing consistent poverty to 2 per cent or less by 2025 as set out in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion.

The recent SVP report on the Hidden Cost of Poverty clearly shows that poverty carries a huge cost, not just for those directly affected, but for everyone in society. The comprehensive analysis estimates that dealing with the consequences of poverty costs the state €4.5 billion every year – more than the respective annual Government budgets for housing, justice, transport, and agriculture. Apart from the human and social benefits, this demonstrates the economic benefit of eliminating poverty.

“To make sure that we come through this crisis stronger and more ready to face future challenges, everyone should have an income that lifts them above the poverty line and allows them to meet a Minimum Essential Standard of Living.  Making the right investments in income supports now means we can reduce future expenditure spent dealing with the damage poverty causes. That’s why we need to invest to save,” said Dr. Keilthy.

Kieran Stafford said, “A challenging task lies ahead for the Government as the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to unfold. But now is the time to get things right for the 700,000 people living in poverty and to put in place the necessary measures to prevent more people falling into a cycle of poverty as a result of the pandemic.”

There are 42 recommendations in Invest to Save which cover Covid-19 and budget priorities.

Read full PBS 2021

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