Posts Tagged 'poverty in donegal'

New Relationship Urgently Needed Between Government & Community Sector

Ann Irwin is the Coordinator of the Community Workers Cooperative and Aiden Lloyd is the Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland. Both organisations are members of the Ireland in Social Europe partnership, an initiative to raise awareness around the social aspects of European policy. This article was written to coincide with a seminar on poverty and social exclusion, held in Donegal on 28th September.

Since the 1991 census was carried out, County Donegal has been consistently ranked as the local authority area with the highest levels of deprivation in the state. Even before the economic crash, Donegal suffered from higher than average poverty levels and high unemployment. In 2006, Donegal had the highest level of unemployment in the state and the lowest disposable income per person in the state at €17,252

Cuts to supports, such as the funding of community development organisations and social inclusion programmes, will further exacerbate poverty and inequality levels. These policy decisions will have immediate, tangible and deeply destructive consequences.

Problems with public services that existed even in good times, such as poor housing provision and unequal access to (and outcomes from) health and education services, will be exacerbated and are likely to become more visible in the form of crime, anti-social behaviour, drug abuse and the fragmentation and degeneration of communities and neighbourhoods.

2010 is the EU designated Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. The intention of the Year is to renew the focus on poverty and social exclusion. In June, European leaders confirmed that poverty reduction will – for the first time – be a headline goal for the European Union in the next decade. The EU’s roadmap for the next ten years, Europe 2020, commits to reducing the numbers of people living in poverty by 20 million by 2020. The success of that strategy will depend on innovative and ambitious thinking at national level.

At least 177,000 Irish people (over 4.2% of the Irish population) live their lives in consistent poverty. Similarly, nearly 620,000 (14.4%) people are at risk of poverty, and according to recent statements from the ESRI, when it comes to poverty and inequality, Ireland compares unfavourably not only with its prosperous EU neighbours but also with a number of new member states.

If we are to prevent sharp increases in poverty and social exclusion in Donegal and throughout the state, it is vital that resources and attention is directed towards protecting vital services, investing in employment and training, and supporting community development.

Ireland has a substantial track record in pioneering innovative programmes capable of mobilising disadvantaged communities to challenge their exclusion and make demands on policy makers, departments and statutory agencies. These programmes have been lauded by the OECD and the European Commission as models of good practice, and they have been adapted for use in many European countries. It is clear that there was a tremendous benefit from our belated realisation that those who experience disadvantage are best placed to advise on its eradication. We learned that community development was the best and most cost effective mechanism to empower and mobilise this participation, and we know that targeting ensured the inclusion and participation of the most marginalised in programmes and initiatives that enriched lives, communities and local economies. These same issues arose recently as key messages from the series of regional seminars organised by the Community Worker’s Cooperative, EAPN Ireland and the Community Platform and from the Conference on urban regeneration organised by Pobal, all in association with the Social Inclusion Division of the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs and part of Ireland’s National Programme for the 2010 EU Year.

Despite the relative success and international recognition of previous policies and initiatives to tackle poverty, the community infrastructure that delivers these important measures so effectively has been diminished and is in danger of collapse.

It is estimated that government spends about €230M on direct intervention social inclusion measures each year. These interventions deliver visible and in some cases life changing results. Investment in their delivery is certainly not unsustainable; it represents about 3% of the amount lost to the State (€7.4 billion, TASC) as a result of tax breaks, or a little over 1% of the €22 billion given to Anglo Irish Bank. The social and economic value that would arise from a greater investment in anti-poverty measures would be immense and would represent a very positive step for us all on the road to economic and social recovery.

Most progressive economists agree that we desperately need a national strategy for investment in people and jobs, one that focuses investment on the most marginalised individuals, groups and communities. The community sector should be an obvious choice of partner for the government in setting out such a strategy. Sadly, it seems that there is no appetite in government for such a partnership. Imposing a 20% cut on programmes that help the most marginalised, against an overall 1.8% cut in state expenditure is wrong, and our children, elderly parents, neighbours and communities will suffer the consequences for many years to come.

The appointment of Minister Pat Carey to the newly configured Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs provides a welcome opportunity to address poverty, social exclusion and inequality holistically and comprehensively. Any new relationship needs to be based on a spirit of trust, inclusion and mutuality, and recognition of the critical role of the community sector as a catalyst for social change and economic recovery.

http://www.cwc.ie

http://www.eapn.ie

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