Listening to the SVP
The work of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) equips its 11,000 volunteers with a deep understanding of the great hardship experienced by those in poverty – those for whom life has become an unremitting daily challenge. As the country’s largest voluntary charitable body, SVP is well placed to help individuals and households in crisis, by offering them support and assistance. All of which makes the society’s pre-budget submission one the Government should carefully consider when framing the 2015 budget.
The SVP president, Geoff Meagher has pointed out that, although economic recovery has begun and the numbers at work have risen, nevertheless the gap is widening between those who are benefiting from the upturn and those – the less well off – who have yet to do so. The charity has identified the housing crisis as its key concern, with 90,000 households on the waiting list for social housing and where, it greatly fears, the number of homeless is likely to increase. The shortage of social housing has been compounded by soaring property prices and higher rents, with private landlords increasingly unwilling to accept rent supplement payments from local authority tenants. As renting becomes less affordable, a rise in homeless numbers seems likely. The SVP has said the Government must now consider all options, including that of rent control. And Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan favours the latter as part of the solution. However, it also risks a constitutional challenge.
One measure of the impact of austerity on the less well off has been the rise in SVP spending to provide relief and assistance. Since 2008, the society’s spending has increased by more than 50 per cent to €82 million. The SVP in its pre-budget submission has made 33 proposals for the Government’s consideration. Many, given fiscal constraints, cannot be accommodated. But the Government should address its greatest concern – the housing crisis – and respond to its appeal for some decisive action on social housing provision.