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Acknowledging progress on policy proposals
Since 2011 Social Justice Ireland has been presenting fully costed budgetary proposals which would help to deliver a fair and just society. We also analyse and critique the Government’s annual budget every year, publishing our response less than 24 hours after the Minister for Finance stands up in Leinster House.
We have strongly advocated on economic and social issues and consistently highlighted fair and progressive options that are available to Government within the Budgetary process. Below are some of the policy areas we have consistently highlighted in our budgetary proposals and where progress has been made. It is important to acknowledge progress on policy issues. It is equally important to highlight those policy areas that are not seeing adequate progress or investment. We will continue to present fully costed, fair and progressive budgetary proposals to Government.
Investment and tax-cuts
The current Programme for Government committed to cut taxes by €1 for every €2 spent on investment. We’ve consistently argued that the bulk of available resources should go on investment to address the country’s deficits. We welcome the ratio in Budget 2019, which was less than €1 in tax cuts for every €10 invested.
Social Welfare Payments
We have constantly argued that social welfare payments be benchmarked in parallel with rises in average incomes. While this has not been done, the welfare increases are coming closer to that target.
Direct Provision Payments
We proposed that the rate of direct provision payments be increased to €39 per week for adults and €30 per week for children. We welcome Budget 2019’s progress in this regard.
Ahead of Budget 21019, we proposed that the preferential VAT rate for the hospitality industry which was brought in at the peak of the crisis should be ended. Given the significant growth and profitability in the sector over the last six or so years, this subsidy to the industry was no longer justified and we welcome Budget 2019’s moves in this direction.
We argued for a reversal in cuts to capitation grants in schools. While progress on this has been slow, we are glad to see it is moving in the right direction.
Sugar Sweetened Drinks
Social Justice Ireland and the Irish Heart Foundation produced research arguing for the introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened drinks. While it took a number of years, we were glad to see this introduced in Budget 2018.
Vacant Site Levy
There has been an urgent need for a Vacant Site Levy for quite some time. Budget 2018 took some steps towards our proposals in this area. We continue to urge Government to extend this levy to residential units.
We proposed that taxation on in-shop and online betting be increased to 3 per cent. While this was increased only 2 per cent, we welcome Budget 2019’s progress in this regard.
While there has been some welcome recent Budgetary improvements in this area we continue to highlight the need for significant increased investment in the area of home care. This becomes more urgent given our growing and ageing population.
More than 100,000 people have a job but are living in poverty. We have argued that the National Minimum Wage (NMW) should be increased and welcome the increases which commenced in Budget 2017. However the NMW is still around 80 per cent of the Living Wage, which is the hourly rate needed for an employee working 39 hours per week to achieve the minimum acceptable standard of living in Ireland. As a member of the Living Wage Technical Group we continue to advocate for the introduction of a Living Wage which is a weekly rate that should provide employees with sufficient income to achieve an acceptable minimum standard of living.
Rural Ireland suffered greatly over the past ten years. There has been some increased funding for rural programmes in recent Budgets which we welcome. Today, however, rural Ireland is still experiencing serious exclusion due to the lack of effective broadband. We continue to highlight that the Action Plan For Rural Ireland depends on significant and ongoing public investment and the delivery of broadband to rural areas.
Ireland has an under resourced childcare sector. The Affordable Childcare Scheme is a positive move towards delivering quality, accessible and affordable childcare options to families. We welcome the introduction of paid paternity leave subsequent increases in paid parental leave. However much remains to be done including implementation in full of the recommendations of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Future Investment in Childcare in Ireland.