After years of cuts, half a million parents will continue to struggle with poverty

The €5 per month increase in child benefit is welcome, say charities, but it should be seen against a backdrop of a €36 cut to the basic rate since 2009

Although the €5 per month increase in child benefit is welcome, it should be seen against a backdrop of a €36 cut to the basic rate since 2009

Although the €5 per month increase in child benefit is welcome, it should be seen against a backdrop of a €36 cut to the basic rate since 2009

 

Budget 2015 does not herald a recovery that is fully committed to those who have been most devastated by six years of cuts, according to the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

And while groups such as Barnardos, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), the Simon Communities and the European Anti Poverty Network Ireland have given a cautious welcome to such tentative steps as a €5 increase in the monthly child benefit, they also stress it will take a long time to undo the enormous damage done over the past six years.

According to the CSO, 750,000 people – among them a shocking 222,000 children – are living in poverty. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of Irish people living in “consistent poverty” almost doubled, from 4.2 per cent of the population to 7.7 per cent. Those experiencing two or more forms of “enforced deprivation” almost trebled during the same era, from 11 per cent to 27 per cent.

Although the €5 per month increase in child benefit is welcome, it should be seen against a backdrop of a €36 cut to the basic rate since 2009.

The NWCI welcomed the increase but said it did not offset cuts since 2009 or the impact of increased property tax and water charges on many families. Nor, crucially, does it do anything meaningful about childcare costs, which average €800-€1,000 a month.

Marginally better off

Robin Hanan, director of European Anti Poverty Network Ireland, welcomed measures “to undo some of the cuts in income and services which have devastated the lives of people on low incomes since 2008 . . .

“This now needs to be part of a more systematic medium-term plan to rebuild Ireland’s public service and welfare system and access to decent work.”

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay also welcomed the modest increase in child benefit but warned: “Families who have been struggling – those forced into emergency accommodation or waiting months for essential therapies like speech and language for their children – must know the plan for Ireland’s recovery includes them, so they can even hope to regain the ground lost in the recent harsh years. A great deal more needs to be done in these areas.”

Social housing

In particular they highlighted the fact caps on rent supplement were not increased, and the provisions for social housing would supply only 7,500 homes next year, or homes for 8.3 per cent of those on the waiting list for social housing.

Speaking yesterday, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said: “A lot of the cuts that people have taken since the recession began in 2008 have for individuals, whether they are on their own or whether they have families with children, have actually been very significant.”

She said the measures for 2015 were fair and would help the most vulnerable families, while helping as many as possible get back to work.

“The biggest cuts of all of course have been taken by people who have lost their jobs and have ended up reliant on social welfare,” she said.