Defending the indefensible

Defending the indefensible
Government ministers speaking on TV programmes and on radio, would have us all believe that they have the interests of the poor and deprived at the centre of their concerns. They constantly tell us that core social welfare payments are being maintained but the evidence shows that nothing could be further from the truth. So here are some facts to ponder and examine and find where the truth really lies.
This week, the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions published the following harrowing statistics and data. One in four families with children in Ireland is a one parent family. That is over 500,000 people. Of these one parent families, trying to rear children, 66% or over 320,000 live in deprivation and suffer the highest consistency rate of poverty. On top of that 800 lone parents care for an adult family member and those lone parents, already disadvantaged, are set to lose 86 euro per week from July when new rates become applicable. Austerity has impacted on everyone but how much more can these vulnerable citizens suffer? To continue to target those lone parent families even further is injustice at its best.
Deprivation was experienced by 30% of the population in 2013 and this was an increase from 26% in 2012. This is a damning indictment on those who have the power to make such draconian cuts in income. They have inflicted a terrible poverty on those who were already poor and vulnerable.
The facts show that the gap between rich and poor is widening every year so for the government to continually tell us that the nation has started to be in recovery belies the true facts and statistics available. The government knows perfectly well they are reducing social welfare income to those who are in most need. They also know these people are voiceless and helpless in the face of these cuts. As far as the Government are concerned the figures must add up and rather than cutting the incomes of those in secure jobs and those with huge incomes, they focus in on the people who are least able to afford it. Those in power continue to ignore the cruel living conditions imposed on the voiceless and they are less than honest about how the current policies they implement are impacting on children and on low income workers.
In July of this year more changes are being made to social welfare payments and it is likely that at least 39,000 lone parents will lose their one parent family payment and be forced to move to Job Seekers Transitional payments. This will inflict further hardship on households already overburdened and overstretched and it will, without a doubt, leave children more poverty stricken. The excuse for this change is that it will allow women an opportunity to return to the workforce. That would be great if work was available and structures in place for flexi hours that would accommodate the caring of children.
Constant worry and anxiety is not conducive to an energised return to any kind of work and when every day is a nightmare – trying to pay ESB, fuel and grocery bills – life is very difficult. The threat of homelessness hangs over many families and this is another shameful indictment on those who are very well aware of the thousands of homes boarded up and the ghost estates that are lying idle. The authorities argue that “bust builders” are responsible for their completion and it is not their job to sort it!. This is fantasy and is simply a dereliction of duty to support families who urgently need homes. Placing families in hotel rooms at enormous costs is not an alternative. Public representatives need to bring a bit of logic and common sense to bear and it is unfortunate that it is pretty short in supply.
According to regular surveys carried out by the Central Statistics Office show that we have unacceptable poverty levels and these levels are being escalated by Government decisions. No improvement has been found in the levels of poverty in Ireland since 2006. Each year the rates for poverty increased, with children suffering from cuts to education, benefits and grants.
We are constantly being told that the economy is in recovery and that the “green shoots” are well on the way. The minister for Social Welfare, Joan Burton, states in the Dail that poverty will be reduced to 4% by 2016 and eliminated totally by 2020. What a flight of the imagination! She also stated her concerns for children being reared in jobless households and admitted grave social and economics risks in letting a quarter of all Irish children grow up in jobless households. These include child poverty, limited educational achievements and intergenerational transmission of unemployment and poverty. The Minister also stated in the Dail that she had included and provided for financial support in budget 2013 for the elimination of child poverty. The latest SILC report for 2013 published recently shows that these promises, not alone were not achieved, but conditions for low income families have worsened. What kind of a fantasy world is she living in? and what kind of an indictment is this of her understanding of the true scale of the poverty suffered by our citizens?.
The St. Vincent de Paul have stated that the effects on the lives of hundreds of thousands of low income families is devastating and there are many impacts on people’s lives. Debt, unemployment, educational disadvantage, poor health, relationship breakdowns, addictions, violence are all worse. These impacts lead to many inequities and our elected leaders need to wake up and start looking after the vulnerable and weak in our society.
The increasing gap between the rich and poor coupled with our high living costs compared to other European countries, all point to the lack of response to the demands by the Society for a more equitable and fair distribution of taxpayers money. The unnecessary suffering and hardship being caused to the elderly, our rural population and our children by those who manage our finances, who incidentally are four men from well-heeled backgrounds, shows a lack of basic Christian values and a disregard for the lives of those who placed their trust in them to better their lives and opportunities.
Peg Hanafin, MSc. Psych/ Couns/ Rehab.