Job no guarantee of path out of poverty

by | Jun 25, 2014 | Justice and Peace, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

svdp-logoSVP (Ireland) is calling for a radical change in our priorities as a nation so that the causes of the problems our members see every day are overcome once and for all. “We are calling for a debate on the vision, values and ethics that should inform decision making in the coming years.”

The Society of St Vincent de Paul is seeing more and more people come to them for help because they cannot make ends meet even when they have a job. This is because of low pay, reduced working hours and the increased cost of living. Many of those who are affected by over-indebtedness are struggling to see any way out of their situation.

SVP says that while employment is a key route out of poverty, it is not a guarantee of an income adequate to stave off poverty, particularly for those with families.

Under the title “Planning for the right kind of recovery” the SVP Submission says that Budget 2015 must;

  • Tackle poverty and social exclusion
  • Tackle unemployment and provide supports and opportunities to jobless households
  • Invest in our children and young people.

SVP National President Geoff Meagher says, “We are seeing more demand for our services because the impact of the recession has been most keenly felt by those least able to afford it and the fallout from six years of austerity and continued cuts is now becoming clear.

“We hear a lot of discussion about Ireland’s recovery, and we certainly welcome the progress achieved, especially the increase in employment. But we can see the gap widening between those who are positioned to benefit most from any recovery and those who are likely to continue to struggle.

“The Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice has found that the average cost of a Minimum Essential Standard of Living has increased by 3.25% in the five years from 2008 to 2013, much faster than the general inflation rate. Social Welfare rates have not been increased since budget 2009 and the tax burden on those on low and middle incomes has increased, pushing more people into poverty”.

Mr Meagher also pointed out that three quarters of a million people in Ireland are now at risk of poverty, including more than 200,000 children. One in four children in Ireland is growing up in a home where no-one has a job.

“Diminishing services in rural areas leave more and more people isolated from the most basic of facilities. Instead of increased employment opportunities and economic recovery, our members in rural Ireland are seeing high rates of emigration that are decimating communities.

“A housing crisis has emerged, with hundreds of homeless families being accommodated in hotels due to a shortage of suitable accommodation. The risk of homelessness is increasing for many households due to higher rents and a chronic shortage of social housing.

“And while Ireland has one of the highest rates of third level qualifications among young people in the EU, 30% of children from disadvantaged areas leave primary school with low levels of literacy and numeracy and half a million adults have literacy problems.

“This situation is unjust and unacceptable and without a change in our attitudes towards tackling the underlying causes of poverty, exclusion and inequality, the problems we see will continue to get worse.” he said.

The SVP Budget Submission includes 33 specific proposals. In introducing the Submission Mr Meagher said; “The stress caused by living on a low income cannot be overestimated. Everyday life on a low income means going without basics like food and heating. It means constant vigilance in relation to household budgets. It means being excluded from everyday activities that many of us would take for granted. It means being unable to plan or hope for the future because your focus has to be on day to day survival.

“SVP is now spending over €80 million per annum, up from €52 million in 2008. In 2012 we spent over €22 million on food and cash assistance and over €11 million was spent on helping households with their energy costs. Help with fuel and energy costs is up by almost 200% since 2008 and assistance with education costs is up by 22% since 2008.

“We can help with some of the immediate problems and difficulties facing a household, but without radical and fundamental changes to our priorities as a nation, these problems will not go away.”.

He went on to say; “A further challenge is our failure as a nation to decide on the values which matter to us, and which should shape decision-making in the coming years.

“For our part, the Society is taking part in President Higgins’ ethics initiative, and we are hosting an event later in the year to discuss some shared values that could inform decision-making in the coming years. We believe that without a clear articulation of the values which will drive us towards the right kind of recovery, including social justice, equality, human rights and the common good, we risk making the wrong decisions now and in the future.

“SVP is calling for a radical change in our priorities as a nation so that the causes of the problems our members see every day are overcome once and for all. “We are calling for a debate on the vision, values and ethics that should inform decision making in the coming years.”

Read the full submission here

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