Stresses the need for social as well as economic recovery
The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., today (Friday, 4 July 2014) hosted the Department’s annual Pre-Budget Forum in the Conference Centre, Dublin Castle. The Forum, moderated Ms Olivia O’Leary, was attended by over 30 voluntary and community groups.
The Pre-Budget Forum gives organisations representing the community and voluntary sector an opportunity to voice their views and priorities in relation to social welfare expenditure in the context of the forthcoming Budget.
The Department of Social Protection will spend over €19.5 billion on a wide range of schemes and services this year. Through these schemes and services, the Department impacts on the lives of almost every family in the State.
Addressing the Forum, Minister Burton stated that the Government has not made any decisions in relation to measures for Budget 2015, and that the views heard at the Forum will be relayed to Government to consider before any such decisions are taken.
However, she stressed the critical importance of social transfers – such as Child Benefit, Jobseeker’s payments and other welfare payments – in safeguarding against poverty, and the need to maintain a strong and responsive social protection system.
The Minister also referred to the Free Travel scheme, saying she does not envisage any changes to the benefits that recipients receive under the scheme. She and her colleagues in Government appreciate the importance of the scheme and the value it provides to the hundreds of thousands of mostly elderly people who use it. “In that context, it is important to note that the scheme has been fully protected in each of the three Budgets introduced by the Government, despite the need to reduce overall welfare expenditure during that time frame,” Minister Burton added.
Minister Burton welcomed the continuing progress on both the economic and employment front, with latest figures this week showing healthy economic growth and unemployment continuing to fall.
“The Live Register has now fallen on a seasonally adjusted basis for 24 months in a row, and almost 70,000 jobs have been created since the economic crisis was at its worst. It is crucial that the most vulnerable in society benefit from the economic recovery and the increase in employment – a central element of the Pathways to Work strategy to help people who are long-term unemployed return to work.
“Up to now, we have concentrated on economic repair and the need to restore the public finances. Now, with the recovery under way, we have entered a new phase, and must place an equal emphasis on social repair, ensuring the recovery is felt in every person’s life and in every community across the country. Employment is the best route for protection against poverty and social exclusion and, in this context, I believe there is scope, as the country recovers, to examine the introduction of a living wage here.”
The Minister sat in for a time at each of the workshops during which she heard first-hand the issues raised as priority concerns of the groups attending the Forum. There were six workshops in all, ranging from ‘Children and Families’, ‘Retired and Older’, ‘Illness, Disability and Caring’, ‘Working Age’ to ‘Poverty and Social Inclusion’ and ‘Housing Supports’.
Representatives of the National Disability Authority, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Citizen’s Information also attended today’s Forum.
List of Organisations invited to attend the Pre-Budget Forum
Active Retirement Ireland European Anti-Poverty Network One Family
Age Action Ireland FLAC OPEN
Alone Focus Ireland Pavee Point
Barnardos Healthy Food for All Retired Workers Committee
Care Alliance Ireland Inclusion Ireland St. Vincent de Paul
Carers Association Irish Council for Social Housing Simon Community
Centre for Independent Living Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed Social Justice Ireland
Children’s Rights Alliance Irish Rural Link The Wheel
Congress Centres Network (ICTU) Irish Senior Citizens Parliament Threshold
Crosscare Natonal Association of Widows in Ireland TREOIR
Cúram National Federation of Pensioners Associations Trust us We Care
Disability Federation of Ireland National Women’s Council of Ireland Unmarried and Separated Fathers of Ireland
End Child Poverty Coalition National Youth Council Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice