Ireland’s infrastructure and social services have been inadequate in areas such as housing, public transport and healthcare for years. We need far greater investment in social infrastructure and readiness for digitalisation. We must invest in sufficient services and infrastructure to provide for demographic change. It is imperative that Budget 2024 address these problems but do so in a fiscally responsible and socially fair manner. Social Justice Ireland proposes that Government use €3bn of the windfall tax revenue surplus in Budget 2024 and allocate these resources to capital expenditure in areas where we currently face significant deficits. These areas are social housing, off-shore wind infrastructure and our healthcare infrastructure.
Ireland’s social housing supply is less than 9 per cent of our overall housing stock. According to Housing Europe, this is at odds with many of our European counterparts (Housing Europe, 2021). Social Justice Ireland proposes that Government set a target that 20 per cent of all housing stock be social housing by 2030. This would equate to an additional 232,800 social housing units to be delivered in the next eight years, starting with an increase of €1.4bn in capital expenditure in Budget 2024.
Housing for All commits to just 90,000 but lacks clarity over how 42,500 of those could be delivered within the plan. The current need, based only on the social housing waiting lists, HAP tenancies, RAS tenancies and households in receipt of Rent Supplement is over 157,000. This does not account for households leaving Direct Provision; new households fleeing war; households in refuges for Domestic Abuse; the majority of the homeless as currently counted; or all of the homeless not currently counted within official data (as would be counted under an ETHOS typology proposed by FEANSTA). It also does not take account of future demand, averaging 27,500 per year.
Transforming Acute and Community Care Services
Irish hospitals are working near full capacity. The occupancy rate for acute care beds is among the highest in OECD countries, and while having a high utilisation rate of hospital beds can be a sign of hospital efficiency, it can also mean that too many patients are treated at the secondary care level. In order to improve access to care, and to progress a shift to a model that prioritises primary and social care Social Justice Ireland is proposing that €600m of surplus windfall revenue is invested in Sláintecare infrastructure with a focus on Enhanced Community Care in Budget 2024.
Government should allocate €1 billion from windfall revenue gains in Budget 2024 for investment in offshore wind energy to accelerate existing plans, secure our renewable energy infrastructure and meet our climate targets. Investment in our renewable energy generation capacity is key to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and meeting our 2030 targets. €100m should be invested in the development of renewable energy sources, €2m of which should be ringfenced to establish a network of community energy advisors. We propose an initial allocation of €30m to upgrading the national grid and a reform of the RESS auction to make it more accessible for communities, individuals and farmers. €15m should be invested in expanding the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. The PSO levy should be reorganised according to average demand, as a first step to ensure that Data Centres make an appropriate contribution to Ireland’s renewable energy targets.