Budget debates

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Community Employment projects a lifeline

Community Employment (CE) schemes, she continued, faced a 66% cut in operating budgets.  Those participating in CE were early school leavers, persons caught up in addiction or the homeless, who had an opportunity to learn and develop new skills, a first step on the ladder to further education.  These schemes in the north inner city had been very positive and made a real difference in people’s lives.  She would hate to see projects closing because of these regressive measures.  They worked with extremely vulnerable individuals, providing a lifeline and coping skills.  Youth and drugs projects had coped with cuts to date and while some might manage with this cut, others would close.  An increase in alcohol duty could have raised €186m and we all know what we could have done with that.  Budgets are about choices: there is a great deal of anger, frustration and hurt out there.

 

Eric Byrne (Lab, Dublin SC) said he was speaking on a social welfare Bill for the first time in 14 years and it was a horrendous experience to see how far the country had descended.  He spoke of three community bodies where he was a director: Treasure Tots nursery, Dolphin House Community Development Association and Crumlin Child Care Consortium.  Treasure Tots had 18 workers on CE, provided high quality training to FETAC §5 and the CE workers went on to nurseries in Cherry Orchard.  The consortium recruited people upskilled through CE.  If the allowance were lost, the shortfall would be €18,000 and it would be difficult to provide the service.  Those providing a service in the community must have a voice when decisions are taken and it should not be a case of being told all of a sudden to cut the programme by 5% or 10%.    Likewise, Mary Lou McDonald (SF, Dublin C) spoke of Glasnevin meals-on-wheels, whose training and materials budget will be slashed from €24,000 to €11,500.  ‘They cannot function on that basis’.  In some cases, the money left will not even cover insurance.  The decision would cause mayhem to communities across the state.

 

Paschal Donohoe (FG, Dublin C) spoke of how at the start of the week, a homeless person was found dead on a street in his constituency.   There was a large number of community enterprise projects in his constituency and he very much understood the work that they do.  It was counterproductive to put in place measures that undermined the viability of projects.  Finian McGrath (ind, Dublin NC) appealed to the government to look at the facts: he quoted the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) analysis that the better off took the smallest hit.  The greatest reduction in income was 2% to 2.5% for those in the poorest 40% of households, but 1% for the next 40% and 0.8% for the top 20%.  Even those who speak objectively say that the government has cut the weakest sections of society the most.