In work poverty is an emerging issue for the people we assist, says the Society of St Vincent de Paul in its Pre Budget Submission for Budget 2020 launched today.
Called “Investing in a Just Society”, the submission says that increasing supports to ensure an adequate income for those in and out of employment is one of the measures that will make a real difference in the lives of people who are trying to break out of poverty.
SVP says that it is calling on Government to take a radical approach to reducing the number, now almost 800,000, who are living below the poverty line. It recommends that Budget 2020 should take the first step to benchmarking social welfare payments and the National Minimum Wage to the cost of a Minimum Essential Standard of Living, proposing a 4% increase in minimum social welfare payments in Budget 2020. Budget 2020 should also increase supports for lone parents in low paid work. Such an investment would mean that the lives of those most at risk of poverty and income inadequacy would be improved.
It says that increasing income supports should be carried out in tandem with additional measures to support people taking up education, training and employment opportunities, coupled with investment in quality public services.
Kieran Stafford, SVP National President, said that although we are one of the richest countries in the world it doesn’t feel that way for thousands of people. “Our 11,000 members meet people who are struggling every day across Ireland and we know that there are many more who are finding it very difficult to make ends meet but who don’t seek our help.”
He said that in the past, bold and radical action by Government has made a huge difference to Irish people, for example, the large scale development of social housing in the 1950s and 1960s which provided secure and affordable homes to a significant proportion of our population, as well as the removal of fees for second level education which saw a transformation in the numbers of young people going on to complete secondary school. More recently, the introduction of the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme means that children can access early years education at a vital stage in their development.
“These were major initiatives that brought positive and long-lasting change to people’s lives. Now strong political action is required to break the cycle of poverty.”
Mr Stafford continued “Many of those who seek our help are living in poor quality, cold, over-crowded, expensive and insecure housing. Our members continue to meet children and young people who are unable to benefit fully from access to education, we see parents struggling with the high cost of living and lack of access to decent jobs; we visit people seeking asylum living in direct provision centres for years on end and our members visit families living in hotels, B&Bs and other emergency accommodation due to the scandal of homelessness.”
Caroline Fahey, SVP Head of Social Justice said, “25,000 children were lifted out of consistent poverty between 2016 and 2017. With the right policy decisions, progress is possible. We are calling for truly free primary and secondary education for all our children, an ambitious target to end energy poverty, an increase in the delivery of social and affordable housing and improved access to healthcare for low income households. We need to prioritise investment in public services and income supports over tax cuts in every budget in the coming years to move us in the right direction”.
Mr Stafford concluded “Poverty is limiting the opportunities and lives of too many in our society. We all rely on publicly funded services and supports like schools, hospitals, transport, roads and our social welfare system at different times in our lives. We need to strengthen these supports to make sure that everyone can live a life with dignity, free from poverty.”
SVP’s submission, Investing in a Just Society, also includes proposals to invest in other areas of income adequacy, education, energy and climate action, housing and health.
The submission covers 17 main proposals and a further 28 recommendations under those headings.
Read the full submission
Summary of Recommendations
Increase lowest primary rates of social welfare (including all working age payments and disability allowances).
- Reduce Working Family Payment weekly hours threshold from 19 to 15 hours for lone parents
- Adequately fund frontline Community Welfare Service, ensure that it is accessible for those who need it and make €50m available for Exceptional and Urgent Needs payments
- Bring weekly allowance for children living in Direct Provision in line with rate for a Qualified
- Child including the higher rate for over 12s
- Restore full adult rate to young people under 26 on Jobseekers Allowance over the next three
- Increase the Living Alone allowance
- Introduce a refundable tax credit for low-income employees
- Increase the value of the weekly income disregard for all lone parents receiving One Parent Family Payment, Jobseekers Transitional Payment and Job Seekers Allowance
- Extend the cut off for the Jobseekers Transition Payment until the youngest child reaches the age of 18.
- Link earning disregards, means tests and income test to the National Minimum Wage for a number of social protection and education schemes
- Put in place measures to ensure that no parent is worse off when transferring from the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme to the new National Childcare Scheme
- Allow lone parents in employment whose children are aged between 7 and 14 to receive both Jobseekers Transition Payment and the Working Family payment
- Address the anomaly by which lone parents in receipt of Rent Supplement and OFP/JST and who want to take up education or training are not eligible for SUSI maintenance
- Reinstate Child benefit for children living in Direct Provision
- Extend Free Travel to all people in the protection process.
- End voluntary contributions by restoring capitation rates to 2010 levels
- Extend eligibility for the SUSI grant to part-time students studying in publicly funded further and higher education and training institutions
- Introduce a five-year template for the delivery of an entirely free school book scheme (As recommended by the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection 2013)
- Equalise the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance for one and two parent families
- Restore Child benefit to those aged 18 and over who are in full-time second level education
- Commission a cost-benefit analysis of providing a hot school meals programme in all primary and secondary schools
- Increase funding for the School Completion Programme to 2008 levels
- Increase SUSI maintenance grant rates to bring them in line with the cost of living. As a first step reverse the cuts to the grants made between 2010 and 2013 and restore the non-adjacent grant rate distance to 24KM
- Review the income thresholds and means tests for the SUSI grant
- Increase the Student Assistance Fund allocation by 20% in Budget 2020
ENERGY POVERTY & CLIMATE ACTION
- Improve access to and take up of energy efficiency schemes
- Increase Fuel Allowance to a value of €830
- Make sure the transition to a low carbon economy is fair and socially just
- Ensure sufficient funding is available to allow Local Authorities to complete the energy retrofitting of social housing stock and set a target of upgrading all existing stock in next four years
- Invest an additional €50m in Rural transport Programme
- Increase range of public transport options
- Promote social inclusion for those in rural areas
- Incentivise greater public transport usage.
- Increase the supply of social and affordable housing
- Bring government departments together to work to identify households at risk of losing their rented accommodation and prevent vulnerable families from entering homelessness
- Improve energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector
- Ensure that affordability for tenants remains a key consideration in developing sustainable financing models for social housing
- Ensure that any cost rental model which is developed has affordability for the tenant at its centre
- Review the maximum limits for Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payment in light of the increases in market rent, alongside greater security of tenure and rent certainty measures
- Ensure that Local Authorities draw down funding and supply suitable and appropriate Traveller accommodation across the country
- Ensure that adequate funding is provided so that every homeless family is assigned a case manager to support them move on from homelessness
- Develop a fully funded and evaluated Youth Homelessness Strategy
- Increase the funding available for civil legal aid and review the eligibility criteria for civil legal aid in repossession cases involving family homes
- Improve access to healthcare for low income households
- Reduce health related costs for low income households