Appropriate and sufficient investment is vital to a balanced and fair post-Covid recovery where no-one is left behind.
Unfortunately Budget 2022 has failed to deliver the necessary investment in social infrastructure for such a recovery.
The challenges young people face were not given sufficient attention in Budget 2022. Government chose not to complete the equalisation of Jobseekers rates for all those under 25 to the rate for those 25 and over. The amount required for an unemployed young adult, living in the family home, to achieve the Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL) is €153 per week. This is almost 1.5 times the Jobseekers Allowance payment to an 18-24 year old at present.
Young people have already been priced out of the housing market and the budget contained no measures that will alleviate the pressures on students and their families as they try to find student accommodation.
Families struggling with the high cost of childcare will find little comfort from the measures announced in the Budget. Whilst additional funding is welcome in a sector that is severely underfunded, the measures provided for will not reduce fees for families, deliver a living wage for childcare workers, will not support service providers to deliver additional childcare places, and won’t ensure the availability of quality, accessible and affordable childcare for families.
Budget 2022 also failed to provide the targeted resources for a regional recovery. Budget 2022 did not provide the necessary resources to support rural areas and the regions to deal with the challenges of Brexit, COVID-19, and our climate crisis. Neither did it address the challenges that predate the pandemic; higher rates of part-time employment, lower median incomes, poverty rates above the national average and greater distance from everyday services.
Remote working presents an opportunity to reinvigorate rural communities, but in order for Government strategies ‘Our Rural Future’ and ‘Making Remote Work’ to be successful, the supporting infrastructure must be put in place. While we welcome the €225m to continue the rollout of the National Broadband Plan, a focus on the shared services and infrastructure that remote working hubs require was missing. Social Justice Ireland proposed a regional recovery investment package of €529m focused on seven priority areas which would help to build sustainable, thriving rural communities.
Our proposals targeted improving and expanding public services, the rollout of remote working hubs, regional economic development, and skills development. Overall the measures in Budget 2022 are insufficient to meet the challenges that rural areas face. We regret that Budget 2022 did not resource a major regional development and transition programme focused on adapting not only to Covid-19 and the impact of Brexit, but also on the challenges to rural and regional economies of reducing our emissions and adapting to new technologies. Such a programme would have ensured that sufficient investment was made in public services and in particular broadband which is crucial to support diversifying the rural economy.
Download our response to Budget 2022