Lone parents' fate in budget 'real worry' for charity
THE FATE of lone parents in the forthcoming budget was a “real worry” for the Society of St Vincent de Paul, its head of social justice and policy has warned.
John Mark McCafferty, speaking at the presentation of its pre-budget submission yesterday, said Government talk about protecting the vulnerable was “just rhetoric”.
The reality was that Government did have choices about where to cut and despite all its claims about protecting the most vulnerable, it was the most vulnerable who had so far been most harshly targeted.
He said the cuts targeted sectors. “It’s easy to play one off against the other. Lone parents were the big targets in 2012 and it is a real worry for us that they may feel the cuts most harshly again, with further erosion of lone-parents’ supports.”
At the event the charity also published a booklet, The Human Face of Austerity as witnessed by the SVP, which outlines 13 case studies of real people met by its volunteers over the past year.
They include a family of two adults and three children aged 17, 12 and 11. They live in the countryside and the father has lost his job.
“The family has a mortgage but has negotiated a break with the bank reducing payments from €1500 a month to €600. At home the mother is moving tinned food from the cupboard to the fridge to make it look full in front of the children. She buys food going out of date as it’s cheaper. Her daily worry is what the family will eat today.”
Another case is Sharon, a lone mother of three children on social welfare of €256 per week. She also receives rent supplement for the private rented flat they live in. She was receiving €50 a week maintenance but her former partner lost his job and the payments have stopped.
“Sharon owes €700 for electricity and the school €90 for the book rental scheme. The family has now received a disconnection notice from their electricity supplier.”
Economist Dr Micheál Collins, from the Nevin Economic Research Institute, said the numbers of households on low incomes was far greater than generally perceived by policymakers and by those on higher incomes.
“Many, many people are living on incomes below the minimum necessary to meet basic needs. There is room in this budget for greater tax increases, from income and other sources. Further public service cuts will hit the poorest hardest.
“The Government has choices,” he said.
While it had said the adjustment of €3.5 billion in Budget 2013 would be achieved through one-third tax increases and two-thirds spending cuts, he said under a more equitable breakdown this would be reversed. In fact in his opinion the breakdown should be 85 per cent tax increases and 15 per cent spending cuts, he said.
The national president of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Geoff Meagher, asked whether it could be imaginable that those whose struggles and despair were outlined in the booklet would take more cuts.
“Government must set out a road map so that people are protected and can retain some hope for the future. The people we meet talk about their need to have hope. The burden that has been placed upon them is unfair.”
LOW BLOWS CUTS SUFFERED BY THOSE ON LOW INCOMES
Child benefit for a family with three children has been cut by €107 a month, or €1,284 a year, since Budget 2011
One Parent Family Payment has been cut by €832 a year, since Budget 2010
The earnings disregard for the One Parent Family Payment was reduced from €146 a week to €130 a week in Budget 2012
Back to School Clothing and Footwear allowance was cut from €305 to €250 for second level and from €200 to €150 for primary level children, in Budget 2012
The personal rate of social welfare has been cut from €204.30 to €188 per week, and the Christmas payment has been lost, since Budget 2010
The weekly fuel allowance was cut from €640 a year to €520, in Budget 2012
The drug payment scheme threshold has increased from €90 to €132 a month, since 2009.