Credit of featured image: Social Justice Ireland on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SocialJusticeI/
Social Justice Ireland (SJI) have expressed their disappointment with recent government activity, particularly with the decision not to increase core social welfare rates in Budget 2021. A survey on income and living conditions published by the CSO on the 27th October last year revealed that approximately 637,000 people in Ireland are currently living in poverty (193,600 of which are children). SJI warn that the government’s decision not to increase welfare rates will have significant implications for these figures, with a substantial impact on lower income households. Prior to Budget 2021, SJI advocated that welfare rates should be increased by €7 a week for the next three years to make up for the gap between welfare and inflation. Speaking at a recent press conference, Michelle Murphy of SJI labelled the introduction of, “a new social dialogue” as their top priority for 2021.
The CSO survey results illustrate that 886,000 people in Ireland are experiencing deprivation. With a yearly increase of more than 140,000, SJI maintain that these trends are very concerning and require immediate action. The survey provided insights on the number of Irish citizens classed as the “working poor”. This refers to 98,100 of people living in poverty which are in employment (either full-time or part-time) but do not earn enough income to surpass the poverty line. In an effort to address this, SJI have recommended that the government and policy makers make tax credits refundable to address the situation of households in poverty which are headed by a person with a job.
In response to analysis of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme published by the CSO on 18th November 2020, SJI is strongly advocating for a new relationship with housing. They have called on the government to put a social housing target in place of 20% of all housing stock by the year 2030. SJI criticised the current situation in Ireland which allows access to basic human rights such as housing and healthcare to be determined by one’s income. In response to a news story outlining that Chinese investors are paying €1 million each to social housing schemes planned by developer Richard Barrett’s Bartra Capital in return for residency, Murphy labelled what she referred to as “selling our national interest to bring in foreign investment” as “appalling”.
Michelle Murphy also outlined SJI’s concern about the country’s current perception of social justice. “I don’t think we have a very good understanding of social justice in this country”. According to Murphy, providing the services and income support that everyone needs requires us to look beyond political leniency and concentrate on the nation as whole. “That conversation has not been had which is probably the most challenging thing about social justice.”
A full list of Social Justice Ireland’s policy recommendations can be viewed on their website. Social Justice Ireland defines itself as an independent think tank and justice advocacy organisation that seeks to build a just society by providing independent social analysis and evidence-based policy proposals, with the aim of creating a sustainable future for society as a whole. They actively try to engage with the population through their social media platforms and their podcast, Social Justice Matters.