Post-Bailout Ireland Must Prioritise Social Consensus

A delegation from the European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland has warned that “the impact of unemployment and budget changes, service cuts, exclusions from eligibility for benefits and increases in costs for people on low income are deepening poverty and destitution".

(EAPN) Ireland delegation said this in a submission at a meeting with the Troika delegation, along with the team from the Society of St Vincent de Paul. This is the third time that EAPN Ireland, a network of over 300 grass-roots community groups, has met  the Troika during their quarterly visits to review Ireland’s ‘bailout’ programme. Click here for the submission (PDF).

Robin Hanan, Director of EAPN Ireland, warned that: “The degree of social consensus on solving Ireland’s economic and social problems is in danger of breaking down".

he added that: “recently published CSO poverty figures show that numbers defined as experiencing deprivation, doubled from 2009 to 2011, now affecting a quarter of the population, a third of all children and 15% of those at work.[i]  Most  affected by deprivation are lone parents, large families, early school leavers and the unemployed, many of whom have longer-term experience of poverty".

At the meeting, the delegation raised three policy concerns needing urgent attention:

  1. Budget 2014: ‘poverty-proofing’ the budget to make sure that policies strengthen social inclusion and don’t undermine it further.
  2. Unemployment: making sure that the new local employment and welfare offices have the resources and training to genuinely support people in their welfare, training, education and employment needs, and developing a coherent strategy for supporting people who are longer-term unemployed.  We are also concerned about moves to privatise support services without adequate criteria and supervision by the public sector.
  3. Moving from rent allowance to housing assistance payments and the inclusion of asylum seekers in the new system: We support the Government’s plans to move to a new system which will mean that local authorities will rent properties to longer-term tenants and charge according to their ability to pay, removing the poverty traps in the current rent allowance system, but this needs a definite timetable for implementation.  The new payment system is an opportunity to provide housing solutions to asylum seekers which is cheaper and more humane than the discredited ‘direct provision’ system.

European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland is a network of anti-poverty groups working to put the eradication of poverty at the top of the EU and Irish agenda through information, training, advocacy and networking.