An expanded public sector, providing increased public services, is essential in addressing cost of living increases

Posted on Monday, 18 July 2022
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An expanded public sector, providing increased public services, is essential in addressing cost of living increases. Making healthcare, housing, public transport, childcare and education more affordable benefits everyone. This is particularly true for those in the bottom 20 per cent of the income distribution who are disproportionately impacted by cost of living increases.


A core pillar of Social Justice Ireland’s Social Contract, is the objective of providing ‘Decent Services and Infrastructure’. Government continues to look to the market and engage private enterprise to provide the public services that should be part of a basic social floor that everyone in the State should expect. They do this notwithstanding evidence that it is more expensive and less effective. Consider that 2022 has seen a sudden and sharp rise in the cost of living, 9.6 per cent in the year to June, leading to more people needing supports and public services that a profit driven system will struggle to provide

Social Justice Ireland's Policy Briefing, 'Other Public Services', published today concludes that if the cost of living crisis is not to overwhelm Ireland’s poorest and most vulnerable, Government policy must focus on ensuring essential services are available to those who need them most. This means the Budget in September will have to address current shortfalls. Additional expenditure will be required in key areas and these will need to be prioritised if Ireland’s poorest are to be protected. The State has proved itself during the pandemic to be the only operator with the capacity and scope to deliver comprehensive and effective services right across the country and into every household. Housing, health and income are services that are foremost in policy discussions. It is important to recognise the importance of other public services such as public transport, financial inclusion and access to digital services which are also vital to wellbeing. 


Main Findings of the Report

· There is a huge deficit in public transport provision in rural Ireland: The lack of reliable public transport in rural areas means that rural households are more reliant on their car to access basic services and commute to and from work and school. This reliance is contributing to our carbon footprint, with transport being one of the three main contributing industries. People in rural Ireland are forced to use their cars due to lack of public transport: Nearly three quarters (73.7 per cent) of all journeys taken in 2019 were by private car (as driver or passenger), whereas public transport accounted for just 4.8 per cent of all journeys.

· In the emerging digital world, internet connectivity must cover 100% of Ireland’s population: Internet connectivity in 2020 stood at 92 per cent, an increase of one percentage point from 2019. Almost every household with children is connected to the internet compared to 79 per cent of adult only households. Fixed broadband connection is the most used, accounting for 85 per cent of households.

· People’s capacity to cope with financial crises is declining: In 2018, almost four in ten people (37.3 per cent of the population) reported being unable to face an unexpected financial expense. The pandemic has exacerbated this with many who found it hard to manage household expenses before finding it even harder.

· In the current rapidly changing world, effective fraud prevention measures are essential: Reported cases of fraud, mostly cases of unauthorised transactions and attempts to obtain personal or banking information online or by phone, more than doubled to 16,929 by the end of 2021. As more and more make the move to online and digital money services, especially those who may be unused to using these services, effective education and fraud prevention measure must be enhanced.


Policy Priorities for consideration

· Increase the provision of public transport in rural areas and provide greater investment in sustainable transport,biofuels and invest in hard infrastructure for cycle lanes.

· Introduce financial literacy and education to the primary and secondary school curricula. Track levels of financial exclusion and build and monitor policies and practices aimed at eliminating it in its entirety.

· Ensure connectivity to affordable high speed broadband access right across the country and develop programmes to enable all internet users to critically analyse information and to become “savvy, safe surfers” and a grants scheme to support low income and vulnerable households to purchase ICT equipment needed to access public services on implementation of the National Digital Strategy.

· Include in the Annual Reports of Commission for Regulating Lobbying, policy areas with the greatest lobbying activity, the lobbying organisations and the designated public officials engaged so as to highlight to the general public those influencing the political decision-making process.