Government urged to end ‘voluntary’ school contributions and set living wage in budget

Society of St Vincent de Paul says economy should be redesigned as State exits pandemic

The Society of St Vincent de Paul has called for Budget 2022 to healp more than 21,000 people in hidden homelessness and some 8,000 in emergency accommodation. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul has called for Budget 2022 to healp more than 21,000 people in hidden homelessness and some 8,000 in emergency accommodation. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

The Government must end ‘voluntary contributions’ to non-private schools and establish a minimum living wage in Budget 2022, the Society of St Vincent de Paul has said.

The charity, which published its pre-Budget submission on Wednesday, said as Ireland emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic the budget must start to “redesign our economy to meet our needs”.

The society supported more than 160,000 households last year, spending €4.7 million helping to pay fuel bills; €5.3 million on education costs; €1.6 million on clothes and furniture and €13 million on food supports.

It says the budget, which will be announced in October, must do more to support incomes and address poverty through adequate social welfare and a living wage for workers.

It also calls for the provision of decent work and childcare; investment in quality public services; that a just transition to a low-carbon economy be prioritised, and for poverty-proofing to be embedded in economic and social policy.

Hidden homelessness

With more than 21,000 people in hidden homelessness and some 8,000 in emergency accommodation, the society is demanding that funding be allocated for 10,000 social homes - to be provided by local authorities and approved housing bodies - as well as for 5,000 affordable cost-rental homes next year.

It calls for a commitment that every child experiencing homelessness to have access to support worker, as well as a “discretionary fund” to meet the needs of children with additional needs who are homeless.

It says so-called ‘voluntary’ contributions for primary and secondary schools must end while school-books in all schools should be free.

Given the €46 per week gap between core social welfare rates and the cost of a minimum essential standard of living, it says both the core rates and rates for qualified children, should be increased - by €9.80 a week for adults, by €10 for for children aged over 12 and by €2.10 for those aged 12 or younger.

‘Systemic injustice’

Lone parents, who are five times as likely as co-habiting parents to be living in poverty, continue to be the group helped most often by the society. It says this is “a longstanding situation that reveals systemic injustice that must be tackled”.

“Over 45 per cent of lone parent families experienced deprivation in the last year for which we have data, and lone parent families are over-represented in family homelessness,” it says.

“ESRI research has shown that tackling poverty in one parent families is vital to Budget 2022 needs to put in place measures that provide immediate relief to those in energy poverty as well investing in the goal of ending energy poverty through a just transition.”

It calls for a greater investment in retrofitting fuel-poor households as well as an increase in the fuel allowance and an extension in how many weeks it is payable each year, from 28 to 32 weeks per year.