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Focus Ireland claims Budget 2005 must reverse damage of previous Budgets
irish social forum |
Thursday November 04, 2004 12:37 by Roughan Mac Namara - Focus Ireland rmcnamara at focusireland dot ie 9-12 High Street, Dublin 8. 01 8815 900
FOCUS IRELAND CLAIMS BUDGET 2005 MUST REVERSE THE DAMAGE OF PREVIOUS BUDGETS AND BEGIN TO BUILD A MORE EQUAL SOCIETY
· Charity calls on Minister to close tax avoidance loopholes that allow some millionaires pay no tax while people struggle to survive on welfare.
· Charity calls for funding for a minimum of 10,000 new social houses next year and an increase in welfare payments by a minimum of €15 a week
Focus Ireland launched its Pre-Budget Submission today (Thur Nov 4th) and called upon the Government to ensure the coming Budget undoes some of the damage done to the most marginalized people in Irish society by previous Budgets including the €60 million cuts in Social Welfare spending in Budget 2004.
Declan Jones, Focus Ireland Chief Executive, said: “ The Government must act now to reverse the damage these cuts have caused. They must listen to the many people further marginalized during the recent boom years if they are serious about building a more equal society for the future.”
He said: “It’s time to stop targeting people who have been marginalized. For instance: We have the crazy situation where 242 people with earnings from €100,000 to €1m had a zero percentage rate of tax for the 2001 tax year as a result of the range of tax loopholes and avoidance measures which had been built up by this Government in previous Budgets. It is grossly unfair that Govt. policies have allowed some of the most wealthy to pay little or no tax while €60 million was cut from social welfare spending in the last Budget alone.”
Focus Ireland stressed actions must be taken across all social spending areas so the widespread disadvantage that has developed in Ireland is addressed before it creates more social exclusion in our society. Mr. Jones said: “It’s no surprise that most people who are homeless or in poor quality housing come from the lowest socio-economic group.
They need housing but they also need a range of other supports such as welfare increases, easier access to medical care and educational intervention. That’s why we are calling for a wide range of measures in different areas in our Pre-Budget Submission.
Mr. Jones said: “Homelessness is often the lowest ebb for people in their lives but it is often a downward journey that begins as people’s life chances have been curtailed as they’ve been marginalized.”
Indeed there have been a number of recent key reports, which have shown the extent to which the cards are stacked against people living on low income/social welfare in Ireland.
Recent reports have shown:
1) Vincentian Partnership study which shows that a dignified standard of living is out of reach for people dependant on social welfare in Ireland.
2) End Child Poverty Coalition – Reports that 66,000 children living in consistent poverty and 237,000 in relative poverty in Ireland. (Stats: 2001)
3) The UN Human Development Report shows Ireland has entered the top 10 of the world's quality of life league for the very first time. However, in spite of this rising prosperity Ireland still has the second-highest level of poverty in the Western world. The report shows inequality in Ireland is now higher than in any other Western country apart from the US.
4) Government’s own recent report which claims it is failing to tackle educational disadvantage in our society.
Providing a decent place to call home is the first vital cornerstone of any action plan to tackle social exclusion. Focus Ireland has called for sufficient funding to provide at least 10,000 social housing units in 2005 at a cost of approximately €1,800 Million (Over two years).
It’s essential this and a range of other actions are taken to tackle homelessness and housing more effectively as the most recent DOE figures (2002) show a total of 5,581 people who are homeless (Most living in emergency accommodation and a small percentage on the streets) and over 48,000 households (Aprox. 140,000 people) on the housing waiting lists.
Focus Ireland also calls in its PBS for the immediate reversal of the restrictions made in Budget 2004 to the SWA rent supplement which have acted to remove the housing safety net for some of people who are most in need. Mr. Jones said: “It’s vital to protect access to rent allowance as a short-term crisis measure for people in vulnerable situations if we are to help prevent more people becoming homeless or having to live in unacceptable situations like martial breakdown, overcrowding and even domestic violence”
Focus Ireland maintains in its Pre-Budget Submission that all interested parties must work together to provide “decent homes – not temporary beds” if homelessness and the housing shortage is to be tackled properly.
There have been recent improvements such as a drop in the number of people consistently sleeping rough due to more emergency accommodation being made available. The charity said these improvements are the result of good work by the Homeless Agency, voluntary groups and the Government but stressed it’s vital the foundations laid by this good work are now further built upon.
For further information please contact:
Roughan Mac Namara – Focus Ireland. Ph: 01 8815 900