Government must protect the vulnerable says Community and Voluntary Pillar of Social Partners

Posted on Sunday, 13 September 2009

The 17 Social Partner groups in the Community and Voluntary Pillar of social partnership have jointly expressed serious concerns about the lack of protection for the vulnerable in our society, in Government plans for national recovery.

The Pillar, of which Social Justice Ireland is a member, is particularly concerned that all of the energies of Government appear to be directed towards rescuing those that created the current problems – and none whatever on protecting services for the vulnerable. Virtually every low income individual and family in this country has and will continue to be seriously affected by Government’s current cost cutting recovery strategy and there is no clear policy emerging on how the vulnerable are to be protected.
The Pillar raised the serious concerns of all 17 member groups about the Government’s current approach to recovery. Our main concern is that the current plans for recovery seem to be driven by further cuts to services, further unnecessary hardship for the vulnerable and not by the application of an integrated social and economic approach, which factors in the difficulties being experienced by ordinary people. An integrated recovery strategy, which is not being discussed or considered by Government, would spread the burden of adjustment fairly and ensure that vulnerable people would not end up paying for the consequences of the many poor decisions taken by others.
The proposals for recovery put forward by the Community and Voluntary Pillar, have five key components:
- An increase in the total tax take (through broadening and deepening the tax base- without increasing income tax rates)
- Securing better value for money in public expenditure
- Reforming the public sector
- Carefully targeting expenditure cuts where required – while ensuring that vulnerable people are protected
- Focusing expenditure on the common good to provide required infrastructure and public services

The Community and Voluntary Pillar is particularly concerned about further cuts in education spending, social welfare, health and social services generally, child benefit and a reduction in social housing provision and rent supplement. 
The Pillar's member groups acknowledge that the Government must resolve the current crisis. There is, however, a serious underlying injustice in government's approach, which runs contrary to the spirit, approach and detail outlined by the government in Towards 2016 and the Programme for Government. Promises have been made and they are now being broken without discussions or sufficient consideration of the outcomes. If social services and infrastructure are seriously underfunded for a period, the cost to restore them to acceptable standards in the future will be enormous.
It is imperative that Government does not sacrifice the long-term unemployed, vulnerable women, the working poor, children and young people, the disabled, rural communities, older people, Travellers and other ethnic minority groups in order to balance the books. These people have not created the current problems so they must not be abandoned as government decides on how the current crisis is to be resolved. "

Members of the Community and Voluntary Pillar of Social Partnership
The Community and Voluntary Pillar consists of 17 organisations that participate in the partnership process.
Age Action Ireland Ltd,
Carers Association,
Children’s Rights Alliance,
Community Platform,
Congress Centres Network,
Disability Federation Ireland,
Irish Council for Social Housing,
Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed,
Irish Rural Link,
Irish Senior Citizens Parliament,
National Association of Building Cooperatives,
National Women’s Council of Ireland,
National Youth Council of Ireland,
Protestant Aid,
Social Justice Ireland,
Society of St Vincent de Paul,
The Wheel