As Budget 2023 is moved forward to September 27, Changing Ireland examines some of the key proposals of groups working in the social inclusion and community sector.
The cost-of-living crisis is dominating discussions in the run-up to Budget 2023 and community and voluntary organisations have once again been very active in advocating for measures to protect their members and the people they serve.
Whilst many submissions rightly focus on the income, housing and health needs of the most vulnerable, the capacity of community and voluntary groups themselves is under pressure at a time when they are needed by a growing proportion of the population.
The need to protect and promote community services at this time is summarised in the Irish Local Development Network’s submission (see below). It says:
“Whilst inflationary pressures are posing serious challenges for disadvantaged, low-income individuals and families that require an appropriate exchequer response, community services also require protection and promotion given their key role in identifying, reaching and supporting the most vulnerable in society.”
Here is what six organisations have to say in advance of Budget 2023:
New Social Contract Needed: Proceeding as before will not do
Social Justice Ireland (SJI) points out that 581,334 people in Ireland are living in poverty and believes that Budget 2023 should be guided by one core principal – the protection of the poorest in Irish society.
It says that proceeding as we have in recent years will not address the challenges Ireland faces, challenges that existed before the arrival of Covid‐19:
“A new Social Contract is needed. (it) should have five core goals: to deliver a vibrant economy, decent services and infrastructure, just taxation, good governance and sustainability. Crucially, however, these five outcomes must be addressed simultaneously.”
SJI also proposes a €477m package under the budget’s Regional, Rural and Community provision. This includes a call for additional supports under the Community Measure for Public Participation Networks (PPNs), the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), the Community Services Programme (CSP) and LEADER.
The Cost of Surviving V. Enforced Deprivation
In its pre-budget submission, ‘The Cost of Surviving,’ the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul cites a weekly gap of €49 between core social welfare rates and the cost of a minimum essential standard of living. It points out that 200,000 children are living in enforced deprivation and over 250,000 customers are in arrears on their electricity bills.
Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice said:
“Investment in essential services like housing, childcare and education must go hand in hand with a social protection system that is strong enough to keep people out of poverty while out of work, living with an illness or disability, caring for a loved one, on low pay or in retirement.”
We must get SICAP Back to Pre-Crash Levels
The main focus of the Irish Local Development Network’s submission is the restoration of the SICAP budget to pre-crash levels when it was halved. Chairperson Jim Finn stated that:
“Despite the fact that the programme’s target groups are experiencing intense food and fuel poverty – due to rapidly rising prices – and finding great difficulty in securing affordable homes, the current budget level for the programme is approximately half of the €85 million level in 2008.”
He called for Budget 2023 to take a significant step towards restoring the budget back to this level:
“The budget for SICAP needs to reflect a sense of real urgency in addressing the various crises affecting those excluded from the mainstream.”
The ILDN is also calling for an increase in the annualised LEADER budget, stating that the current “reduced income for the programme will lead to reduced funding for community infrastructure and enterprise development in rural areas – this at a time of severe pressure on the rural economy due to the impact of fuel inflation. It will lead to staff lay-offs by Local Development Companies too.”
Developing the Community Development Pilot Programme
The focus of the Community Work Ireland submission is on the Community Development Pilot Programme in which there are currently seven projects operating on a budget of €135,000 each per year.
CWI are calling for an immediate 8% increase in each project’s budget and a doubling of the number of pilot projects from seven to fourteen in 2023. They then want to see an additional seven projects introduced each year until 2027 which would bring the total number to forty-two and require a budget of €9.52 million.
The Wheel Wants Action on C&V Recruitment & Retention Crisis
The Wheel’s submission leads with human resources challenges as the sector is becoming less attractive due to inflation whilst other sectors move faster to ensure competitive salaries.
A central focus is, therefore, the request for increased funding to enable community and voluntary organisations to address recruitment and retention problems in the sector.
In a related request, the Wheel is seeking resources for a comprehensive skills development strategy for the Community and Voluntary sector workforce.
They also urge action on commitments for multi-annual funding to allow for better planning.
The entire sector is aware of the mounting burden and cost of compliance required by funders and regulators. Whilst these ensure continued confidence in the sector, their growing cost is often not borne by funding agencies. The submission is seeking greater provision for compliance costs whilst also requesting a streamlining of regulatory and funding-related requirements.
Finally, extra dedicated resources are sought to deliver the commitments made in three important national policies (see below) developed by the Department of Rural and Community Development in recent years.
Dóchas wants Government to scale up its response food crisis
Dóchas, the network of international development and humanitarian organisations, has put the spotlight on the impact of what it calls “extraordinary global events” on low-income countries. Conflict, climatic shocks, Covid-19 and economic pressures are mounting in areas that were already experiencing humanitarian crises.
Dóchas is asking the government to use its influence in its remaining few months on the UN Security Council to push for greater action on the structural causes of extreme poverty, inequality, conflict, the climate emergency and hunger.
Within the government’s more immediate control, Dóchas points out that progress towards the state’s commitment to providing 0.7% of Gross National Income annually to Overseas Development Assistance is slow and is currently at 0.32%.
They are requesting an increase of €233 million to bring it to 0.37% in 2023 and chart a sustainable path to reaching the target by 2030. The increase is aimed at four priorities: fighting hunger, tackling the climate emergency, addressing conflict and responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Such funding should be targeted at civil society groups, particularly women’s organisations, in the least developed countries and fragile states “to ensure that universal human rights and minimum standards are being fulfilled, including access to food, water and healthcare”.
MORE PRE-BUDGET SUBMISSIONS
EDITOR’S NOTE: Other important C&V sector submissions were published as the above article was being written. They include three from Inclusion Ireland, the Irish Traveller Movement, and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands.
The Irish Traveller Movement published its Pre-Budget Submission titled ‘Progressive Realisation for Travellers of Budget 2023’, available HERE.
Inclusion Ireland – the national association for people with an intellectual disability – also recently published its Pre-Budget Submission – DETAILS HERE.
Finally, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands published its Pre-Budget Submission and presented it to the Department of Rural and Community Development
Changing Ireland will report after the Budget on the impact on social inclusion services and targets groups.