Coalition of charities call for restoration of funding for social services and supports

Six national networks, encompassing over 1,700 Irish charities, today called on Government to prioritise the restoration of funding for social services and supports above tax cuts and capital spending in Budget 2016.

The Wheel, Disability Federation of Ireland, Care Alliance Ireland, Irish Rural Link, Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups and the National Youth Council of Ireland said in a joint statement that while the economy has grown steadily over the past year, spending on services for people with disabilities, young people, carers and rural communities has remained static after years of cuts. These groups warned that crucial services are now at breaking point.

By way of illustrating the gravity of the situation: a survey conducted by The Wheel in May this year found that 42% of charities experienced a fall in their income over the past year, while more than two-thirds (72%) reported that demand for their services increased over the same period. A third (33%) of charities had to cut back or suspended services over the same period.

"...while the economy has grown steadily over the past year, spending on services for people with disabilities, young people, carers and rural communities has remained static after years of cuts."

Ivan Cooper, Director of Advocacy at The Wheel said: “We have heard a lot in recent months about the homeless crises, the lack of social housing, the lack of capacity in our health service, problems with the standard of care in some voluntary care homes and growing social problems in rural areas; these issues are not unrelated, Ireland’s community and voluntary sector has been subjected to disproportionate funding cuts since 2008, and the cumulative impact of these cuts is now being felt in every community.

“The Minister of Finance Michael Noonan has indicated that there is a €1.5 billion available in Budget 2016, which Government intends to divide evenly between tax and expenditure measures. We call on Government to invest two-thirds of available funds to restore budgets for social services. We also note that the most recent Irish Times/ISPOS MRBI Poll shows that voters want Government to prioritise spending on services over tax cuts,” said Mr Cooper.

Seamus Boland, Chief Executive of Irish Rural Link said: “Voluntary services, such as meals on wheels have been hit consistently over the last four years and are now at breaking point in terms of demand. For many people meals on wheels allow them to remain in their own home rather than being forced to seek a bed in a nursing home. Adequate support for these services will improve the well-being of people, and at the same time be a saving for the state.”

John Dolan, Chief Executive Officer of the Disability Federation of Ireland added: “The reality for people with disabilities and their families is that disability leads to poverty, exclusion and the loss of hope for future participation in society. Disability affects everyone and every family at some stage. Disability and long term illness is the outstanding social equality issue that Ireland needs to tackle now. Ireland’s social infrastructure needs considerable investment if it is to support the 13% of the population who have a disability to live meaningful lives. Where one person in a family is stopped and becomes excluded simply because of a disability, it is simply not fair. This Budget must begin an ambitious campaign to redress this continuing unfairness," said Mr Dolan.

Diarmaid Ó Corrbuí, Chief Executive of the Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups added: “Last week the Government announced a €27billion capital investment plan to enhance the county’s physical infrastructure. We need the Government to also to commit to an investment plan to enhance society’s civic infrastructure. The voluntary and community sector exists to have a positive impact on the communities it serves. The right support can bring organisations together and share learning to allow them to have a greater impact. We call on the Government to work with the sector to substantially improve the positive impact that civic society organisations have on their communities,” said Mr Ó Corrbuí.

Liam O’Sullivan, Executive Director of Care Alliance Ireland said: “Ireland’s 187,000 Family Carers provide 6 million hours of care per week. This equates to approximately €4 billion worth of unpaid care every year to people with disabilities, mental health concerns and long-term illnesses. Many Family Carers feel let down and unsupported by Government, in particular with the savage cuts of the last number of years. We are calling for the full restoration of the Respite Care Grant, along with an increase in services for people with disabilities and their Family Carers”.

Mary Cunningham, Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland said: “According to the OECD, young people were hit hardest by the recession. In the youth sector, just over 1,500 staff work with almost 40,000 volunteers to provide services for more than 380,000 young people. At less than €4 a week per young person involved, supporting these vital services makes economic sense and presents real value for money.

“As the economy recovers, and with a rising youth population, it is essential that Government now invests in retaining and developing these services and build on the excellent work carried out by youth organisations, projects, services and clubs up and down the country,” said Ms Cunningham 

The six organisations have offered their support to Government in developing and implementing a plan for restoring funding for the above-mentioned services. They have also committed to involving people and communities in this collective effort.