Charities air concerns to Burton


A pre-budget forum hosted by Joan Burton today heard calls for child benefit and the older person's free travel scheme to be spared cuts.

The event, which was attended by more than 30 charities and NGOs, also saw people urge the cancellation of the plan to move single parents from the lone parent's allowance to job seekers’ allowance once their youngest child reaches seven.

The forum is an annual event giving groups working with some of the vulnerable sectors an opportunity to spell out their concerns directly to the Minister for Social Protection in the run-up to the budget.

Among the 31 groups at the event were the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament, Social Justice Ireland, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, housing charity Threshold, the single parent organisation Open, Inclusion Ireland and Care Alliance Ireland.

One of the first submissions was from a woman who gave only her first name, Sarah, a single mother and also a member of Open.

She said worked 22 hours a week, her income supplemented by a reduced lone-parent allowance. She was “shocked” at plans announced last year to move mothers like her from the lone-parent's allowance onto job seekers, once their youngest child reaches seven.

If the plan came in she would lose her lone parent family payment by 2015 and would have to get a full-time job “which in this climate is very hard”.

Her daughter would have to be home alone from 2.30pm daily until she finished work she said. “I can’t afford the after-school that is available as it would take up all my wages, and so I would have to give up my job and go on the live register. That is something I do not want to do.

“All in all it felt like last year’s budget totally singled out families like mine. I want to work and get off welfare. As you know Minister the payment was designed the way it is to recognise that we don’t have proper childcare here. We still don’t. Why is it being changed then?,” the woman asked.

Her submission was referred to several times by other groups as underlining the need to not implement the plan.

Maireád Hayes, chief executive of the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament, noting the presence of officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform at the event, said there were “plenty of fat cats out there for the taking”. She urged them to seek higher taxes for people on over €100,000 per annum rather than seeking deep cuts from the Department of Social Protection budget.

Ms Hayes also referred to fuel poverty among older people as did Michael O’Halloran of the Retired Workers’ Committee of Ictu. He also said if the free travel scheme for older people was withdrawn “CIÉ would collapse in the morning.”

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed reminded the Minister of the programme for government commitment not to cut social welfare rates and said poverty was a reality for increasing numbers of people.

Social Justice Ireland said there could be no justification for cutting welfare rates in Budget 2013.

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