Government Must Protect the Vunerable - Ivan Cooper's Speech

December 6 2011

14th September 2009

Good morning everyone,

My name is Ivan Cooper. I am chairing this morning on behalf of the community and voluntary pillar, and I work for The Wheel, one of the 17 member organisations in the community and voluntary Pillar.

With me on the panel are fellow pillar-members

  • Sean Healy - Social Justice Ireland,
  • Orla O'Connor - National Women's Council of Ireland,
  • Seamus Boland - Irish Rural Link and
  • Brid O'Brien - Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed.

We also have representatives of many pillar members in the room this morning who will be happy to participate in answering any questions.

I would like to begin by saying a few words about the community and voluntary pillar itself. The community and voluntary pillar is one of the five pillars of the national social partnership process along with the employer's pillar, the trades union pillar, the farmer's pillar and the environmental pillar.

The pillar consists of seventeen organisations invited by government to participate in social partnership to provide voice and representation for vulnerable people and communities in developing Ireland's social and economic policies. The members of the Pillar are:

  • Age Action Ireland
  • The Carers Association
  • The Children's Rights Alliance
  • The Community Platform
  • Congress Centres Network
  • Disability Federation Ireland
  • The Irish Council for Social Housing
  • Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed
  • The Irish Senior Citizens Parliament
  • Irish Rural Link
  • The National Association of Building Co-operatives
  • The National Women's Council of Ireland
  • The National Youth Council of Ireland
  • Protestant Aid
  • Social Justice Ireland
  • Society of St. Vincent de Paul
  • The Wheel

So why are we here this morning?

We are here to express our serious concerns about the lack of protection for the vulnerable in society in Government's emerging plans for national recovery.

We are particularly concerned that all of the energies of Government appear to be directed towards rescuing those that created the current problems - and none whatever on protecting services for vulnerable people.

Virtually every low income individual and family in this country has been - and will continue to be - seriously affected by Government's cost-cutting recovery strategy.

There is no clear policy emerging on how vulnerable people are to be protected.

The only developing policy seems to be a menu of cuts in services which will involve further unnecessary hardship for vulnerable people.

This is profoundly unfair and unjust.

The recommendations in the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (the McCarthy Report) will decimate public services and severely effect poor and vulnerable people.

The Special Group focused on cutting expenditure within individual Departments, but it did not examine the cumulative effect of individual cuts on the mix of public services that people use.

If implemented, vulnerable people who are dependent on public services will be hit by the combined impact of these cuts.

The 17 members of the community and voluntary pillar are here today to demand that those who are most vulnerable in Irish society such as - unemployed people, the working poor, children and young people, disabled people, older people, vulnerable women, Travellers and members of other ethnic minority groups - must not be sacrificed to budget stabilisation measures.

We now call on government to protect vulnerable people by developing a fair and just "five point" social and economic recovery plan that should involve a combination of

  1. Increasing the tax take (through broadening and deepening the tax base - not through increasing income tax rates!)
  2. Securing better value in our public services
  3. Reforming the public sector
  4. Carefully targeting expenditure cuts that protect vulnerable people
  5. And focusing expenditure on the common good

Government must also conduct a detailed analysis of the effects of the recommendations of the McCarthy report on vulnerable people as part of this process.

Taking the integrated social and economic approach we have called for would spread the burden of adjustment fairly and would ensure that vulnerable people do not end up paying for the consequences of the many poor decisions taken by others.

Eliminating the 111 tax breaks identified by the Commission on Taxation would make the tax system fairer and would be a good start to an integrated recovery plan that shares the burden of adjustment fairly.

We call on Government this morning to do just that These are the actions we need to take if we are to protect vulnerable people from paying the price for recovery.

These are the actions we need to take if we are to begin to create a just and fair society.

I would like now to invite Sean Healy of Social Justice Ireland to elaborate for us and provide some more detail on the five point plan we have proposed this morning.