As 2014 progresses there is increasing commentary highlighting Ireland’s return to economic
growth with better than expected exchequer returns, reducing unemployment and increasing
consumer confidence. But such commentary is disingenuous and unhelpful as many of the
communities we work with are still reeling from the impact of austerity measures imposed
over the past six years. Issues including high levels of private debt, significant levels of long
term unemployment and inadequate access to public services are very common. This leads
to overriding feelings of hopelessness and despair which are becoming entrenched by the
continued adoption of economic policies that reinforce societal inequalities.
Children in low income families are falling victim to societal inequality that keeps them stuck
in intergenerational cycles of poverty. It is a damning indictment of austerity policies that
consistent poverty among children increased from 6.3% in 2008 to 9.9% in 2012 with almost
half of all families relying on social welfare or low paid work. Highlighting the unequal
distribution of austerity, in 2012 the richest 10% of households received 24% of the total
disposable income and the poorest 10% of households received just 3%.
Persistent inequality is the result of pursuing austerity policies in a low taxation regime.
Ireland has one of the lowest levels of taxation and social insurance in the EU, at threequarters the EU average level. The Government’s Statement of Priorities and Medium Term
Economic Strategy pledged to tackle inequality and ensure that any economic recovery
benefits all citizens. To honour this commitment Budget 2015 decisions must invest the
maximum available resources into quality public services that will make a real difference to
children’s lives. With inflation rising again and the related increase in pricing of some goods
and services it is imperative that those on low incomes are not pushed deeper into poverty
as they struggle to compete with the rising costs of living. Barnardos remembers how many
families were left behind by the Celtic Tiger. The Government must ensure that any rising
tide of economic recovery lifts all boats, not just those of the already well off.
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