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budget 2015

Up for debate: What sort of Ireland do we want?

St Vincent de Paul wants the Government to lead the debate on this question.

ST VINCENT DE Paul has seen the number of people it provides assistance to double in the past number of years.

With 11,000 SVP volunteers visiting struggling households throughout the country, it spends almost €80 million per year (up from €42 million in 2006) on looking after people during times of need.

In 2012, it spent over €22 million on food and cash assistance; over €11 million was spent on helping households with their energy costs.

SVP’s fuel and energy costs are up by almost 200% since 2008, while assistance with education costs is up by 22% in the same period.

Now, SVP is calling on the Government to lead the debate about what kind of Ireland we want.

“We really do think the government should lead that debate,” said Geoff Meagher, SVP National President.

He said that SVP doesn’t anticipate Ireland recovering back to where it was pre-recession.

I think we’ve left that behind us and it is well best left behind. But at the same time, unless we decide what we want in the future, then we may end up back there again.

Budget 2015

This is all factored into SVP’s pre-Budget submission, which it launched today in Dublin.

It is calling on next year’s Budget to:

  • Tackle poverty and social exclusion
  • Tackle unemployment and provide supports and opportunities to jobless households
  • Invest in children and young people

Three-quarters of a million people in Ireland are now at risk of poverty, including more than 200,000 children.

In the submission, SVP makes a wide range of suggestions, based on what it sees as the pressing issues affecting people in Ireland.

These include:

  • Ensuring household energy is affordable: energy policy for low-income household must balance income, prices, energy-efficiency and awareness.
  • Investing in early childhood care and education
  • Healthy eating in schools – increase funding or the School Meals Scheme
  • A reduction in various school costs
  • Intervention needed in child and adolescent mental health services
  • Helping disadvantaged young people into further education and training
  • Reverse the cut to young people’s jobseekers’ payments and Supplementary Welfare Allowance
  • Remove the prescription charge or medical card holders
  • Retain the monthly Drug Payment Scheme threshold
  • Resource and roll out a new National House Condition Survey by the end of 2015
  • Increase the rate of Back to Education Allowance for young people aged under 26 to €188 per week
  • Protect and enhance the Family Income Supplement
  • Reverse the reductions in the earnings disregard for the One Parent Family Payment
  • Ensure all landlords receiving the rent supplement provide permission for the installation pay-as-you-go electricity and gas meters
  • Restore Child Benefit to children in full-time second-level education who are living in low-income households and aged over 18

Geoff Meagher told “Over last couple of years in particular, the demands for our services has doubled, and that includes at this stage people in low paid employment, people with debt issues.”

He said that one big issue for the Government is tackling unemployment. “Without tackling the unemployment issue even more, we won’t have a vibrant society to move forward,” he said.

Another issue is education and a “well-trained workforce,”, he added.


Meagher said that SVP is calling on the government to have a debate in Irish society “about the type of society we actually want – what are the values we want as a country as we emerge hopefully from the Celtic tiger years”.

I don’t believe people want to go back there, what do we want as a society as we go forward? So we would like to have a debate and we would like to involve all sections of society in that debate as to the type of Ireland that they want.

Meagher said that in a lot of cases, people who supported the society fairly generously in the past are now being supported by SVP.

“For our members it is more difficult, our members are under more pressure on the ground, the level of demands they are getting and the complexity of the issues that are coming up,” he said.

He said that SVP tries to support people over a crisis in their lives and get them back to stability.

The future

Is he confident about the Government listening to SVP? “I would think that following the last elections, I think government got the message loud and clear that there are a lot of people out there who are suffering at the moment,” said Meagher.

Getting the economy right certainly has to be done, but “it has got to be done in a way that gives a chance to all of our people, and treats all of our people fairly in terms of recovery”, said Meagher.

That’s the debate that we would like to have, of having a recovery that gives fairness and justice to all of the people in the country.

Read: Shinnernomics: Opponents call them fantasy, so how realistic are Sinn Féin’s budget proposals?>

Read: Column: The State’s new year resolution should be to cherish all children equally>

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