Regardless of budget, austerity or recession, the lives of some people in society do not change one iota, while those in the low and middle income groups suffer disproportionately. We are told we are in recovery, and we have various statistics to show this, but it is not filtering down through society. There comes a point where people cannot take any more i.e. water charges.
We know the social consequences of the economic policy, including emigration, the housing crisis, homelessness and what is happening in our communities as pointed out by Br. Kevin Crowley from the Capuchin day centre. We have communities and groups that are struggling as we approach the budget. What are the values that will determine the decisions to be made in it?
Many of our senior citizens have already survived one if not two recessions. The majority of them are living on greatly reduced incomes. Many are helping out their children who are unemployed or in negative equity as well as adult children who have had to move home. They have seen increases in private health insurance and medication costs. They have lost the telephone allowance and the death benefit. They have seen medical card issues, the property tax and now there are impending water charges. The one service they have for free, a facility that has been in place since 1967.
There is no doubt that the cuts have undermined people’s rights – rights to a decent living, housing, education and health. Certain vulnerable groups are being affected disproportionately, including women, children, the elderly and the disabled.
One of the reasons budget cuts are not fairer all around is that we do not have a democratic participation of all sectors in the budget process meaning that the principles of social justice and human sympathy are missing. We need to give a sense of dignity through those policies to those groups that are vulnerable. There are two ways to do that.
One is the equality proofing of budgets – the social-impact analysis of budgets.
The other is to listen in a meaningful way to the social actors who are directly involved with communities and groups that are struggling and not just pay them lip service.
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