News archive 2012

Catholic Social Justice groups call for change of direction in Budget 2013

Catholic Social Justice groups call for change of direction in Budget 2013

Ahead of the publication of Budget 2013 in the Dáil next Wednesday by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan seven Catholic social justice groups have today issued a joint appeal to Government for a change in direction in the forthcoming budget to bring us closer to creating a society where respect for the dignity of every person, fairness, solidarity and the common good are the key underpinning values. As a minimum, these organisations are calling for:

No further cuts to social welfare payments
No reduction or means-testing of Child Benefit payments
No further cuts to Overseas Development Aid

Statement in full:

We have come together, as organisations working in the field of social justice, nationally and globally, to appeal for a change of direction in Government policy, in and beyond Budget 2013.

Through our collective experience we can draw on a wide range of evidence to demonstrate the extremely damaging impact of the austerity policies pursued over the past few years. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, cuts in health, education and social services, reductions in social welfare payments, and increases in taxes and charges have had a devastating impact on the ability of many people in Ireland to maintain an acceptable standard of living and to gain access to needed services. The consequences of austerity measures have not been limited to Ireland, however, as the achievements of recent years in addressing global poverty are threatened by cuts to Overseas Development Aid. Meanwhile, for those sections of Irish society that remain better off, the economic crisis has had a proportionately less significant impact on their living standards.

The rationale underpinning austerity policies which impact, disproportionately, on some sections of society, is flawed, from economic, social and moral perspectives. The impact of austerity shows that it cannot be considered as merely a short-term measure: through our work, we can see that the consequences of austerity measures can last a lifetime and negatively impact on the wellbeing and life chances of future generations.

With each Annual Budget introduced in the past few years, there has been a further erosion of hope and a deepening of divisions within Irish society. We need to put a stop to this situation before it becomes more embedded.

We want to emphasise that, even in the context of weak national and global economies, the Government has choices. Significant choices will be made in Budget 2013. These choices need to take us in a different direction, and recognise that we should not attempt to resolve a budgetary crisis by deepening the current social crisis.

Policy choices in Budget 2013 need to be carefully assessed in terms of how they will impact on the struggle of the many people, here in Ireland and throughout the world, who at present cannot afford a minimum acceptable standard of living.

The measures introduced must not be those that can be most readily implemented because the groups affected are too weak numerically, and in terms of influence, to protest. In addressing the deficit we need to rebalance the ratio of taxation to expenditure cuts, ensuring that the impact of these measures is proportionate and equitable in terms of the ability of different sectors of society to take cuts to contribute to resolving the budgetary crisis, with close attention paid to the cumulative impact of measures across different areas – taxation, social welfare, access to public services – particularly on those who have already experienced the effects of several years of budgetary cuts.

In effect, Budget 2013 must be assessed on whether it brings us closer to or further away from creating a society where respect for the dignity of every person, fairness, solidarity and the common good are the key underpinning values.

As a minimum, we the undersigned call for:
No further cuts to social welfare payments
No reduction or means-testing of Child Benefit payments
No further cuts to Overseas Development Aid

List of participating organisations:

Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Episcopal Conference
Council for Research and Development of the Irish Episcopal Conference
Crosscare
Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Trócaire
Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice

Ends

Notes for Editors:

Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Episcopal Conference: www.catholicbishops.ie/justice
Contact: Nicola Rooney, Research Coordinator, Tel. (01) 505 3016

Council for Research and Development of the Irish Episcopal Conference: www.catholicbishops.ie/research
Contact: Eoin O’Mahony, Social Researcher, Tel. (01) 505 3024

Crosscare: www.crosscare.ie
Contact: Conor Hickey, Director, Tel. (01) 836 0011

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice: www.jcfj.ie
Contact: Fr. John Guiney SJ, Director, Tel. (01) 8556814

Society of St. Vincent de Paul: www.svp.ie
Contact: Audry Deane, Social Policy Analyst, Tel. (01) 838 6990

Trócaire: www.trocaire.org
Contact: Tara Bedi, Policy Officer, Tel. (01) 6293333

Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice: www.vpsj.ie
Contact: Bernadette MacMahon, Director, Tel. (01) 878 0425

Some Key Indicators of Economic and Social Distress

Unemployment and Emigration
The number of people unemployed has risen from just over 100,000 in 2007 to 324,500 in the third quarter (July–September) of 2012.(1)  Over the past five years, the unemployment rate has risen from around 4.5% to 14.8%.
The long-term unemployment rate rose from 8.8% in July-September 2011 to 8.9% in the same period in 2012; in 2007, the long-term unemployment rate was just over 1.0%. Long-term unemployment now accounts for 59.5% of all unemployment. (2)

Emigration from Ireland in the twelve months to April 2012 is estimated to have reached 87,100; in the year up to April 2011, it was estimated to have been 80,600. (3)

Poverty
At least 700,000 people overall are ‘at risk’ of poverty, including 200,000 children (over 19% of the child population). (4)
The proportion of the population at risk of poverty increased from 14.4% in 2008 to 15.8%  in 2010; in the same period the figure for ‘consistent poverty’ rose from 4.2% to 6.2%.
Calls for assistance to the largest regional offices of the Society of St Vincent de Paul have increased by over 80% since 2009. (5) The Society is spending in excess of €70 million per annum providing assistance to individuals and families in need; it is spending over €7 million on food and at least €5 million on education.

Housing
Mortgage arrears have increased sharply over the past three years. In September 2009, a total of 26,272 mortgages in respect of principal residences were in arrears for over 90 days. (6)
By the end of June 2012, 83,251, or 10.9%, were in arrears of more than 90 days with 65,698 (equivalent to 8.6 per cent) in arrears for more than 180 days. In addition, 45,165 accounts in arrears for less than 90 days. (7)

In 2011, there were 98,318 households on waiting lists for social housing; 44% of these households included at least one child. The 2011 waiting list figure represents an increase of nearly 75% on the figure for 2008. (8)

Cuts in Recent Budgets

Social Welfare Payments
The maximum personal weekly rate for social welfare payments (for example, Jobseeker’s Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance, One Parent Family Payment, illness and disability payments) has been reduced from €204.30 in 2009 to €188 per week in 2012.
The maximum rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance for a person in the age group 18–21 has been reduced from €204.30 to €100 per week; for those in the age group 22–24 the rate has been reduced to €144.
The Christmas Bonus for people receiving long-term social welfare payments was abolished in 2009.

The duration of payment of the Fuel Allowance (a weekly means-tested payment of €20 for people receiving certain social welfare payments) was reduced to 26 weeks (a cut of six weeks) in the 2012 Budget.
The  minimum contribution a person receiving Rent Allowance must contribute to rental costs has increased from €13 to €30 for a single person and to €35 for a couple.

Since 2009, Child Benefit has been reduced from €166 to €140 per month for the first and second child and from €203 to €148 for the third child. A family with three children will therefore have experienced a reduction in Child Benefit of €107 per month (€1,284 per annum).

Child Benefit is no longer payable in respect of a young person who has reached the age of 18, even where he or she is still in full-time second level education.

Education
The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance has been reduced from €305 to €250 for second-level students and from €200 to €150 for younger children.

A €100 charge has been introduced for school transport for primary school children, to a maximum of €220 per family. The school transport charge for post-primary children has increased to €350 per pupil, to a maximum of €650 per family.

The means-tested third-level student maintenance grant has been reduced, with the ‘non-adjacent’ rate down from €3,420 in 2009–10 to €3,025 in 2012–13 (a cut of €395), and the ‘adjacent’ rate down from €1,370 to €1,215 (a cut of €155). The qualifying criterion for the non-adjacent has increased from 24km to 45km.

Development Aid
Since 2008, Ireland’s aid budget has fallen from €920 m. in 2009 to €639 m.  in 2012 – a drop of just over 30 per cent. Progress towards reaching the stated target of devoting 0.7% of GNP to development aid by 2015 has stalled – despite the fact that the fall in overall GNP in recent years makes reaching a percentage target easier to achieve. Aid expenditure now stands at around 0.5% of GNP.

References

1 Central Statistics Office, Quarterly National Household Survey Quarter 3 2012, Dublin, 29 November 2012  (http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/releasespublications/documents/latestheadlinefigures/qnhs_q32012.pdf).

2 Ibid.

3 Central Statistics Office, Population and Migration Estimates April 2012, Dublin, 27 September 2012

(http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/releasespublications/documents/latestheadlinefigures/popmig_2012.pdf).

4 Central Statistics Office, Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) 2010, Dublin: CSO, March 2012 (http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/releasespublications/documents/silc/2010/silc_2010.pdf).

5 Society of St. Vincent de Paul, The Human Face of Austerity, As Witnessed by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Dublin, October 2012,  p. 3.

6 Central Bank of Ireland, Residential Mortgage Arrears and Repossessions Statistics, Quarter Ended September 2009 (www.centralbank.ie).

7 Residential Mortgage Arrears and Repossessions Statistics: Q2 2012, 23 August 2012 (www.centralbank.ie).

8 The Housing Agency, Housing Needs Assessment 2011, Dublin: Housing Agency (available: www.environ.ie).

For media Contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444

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