The six members of the Civil Engagement Group in Seanad Éireann have outlined their concerns in advance of Budget 2019, highlighting the cost of not investing in public services.
Among many other areas, the group highlighted that the government needs to demonstrate a commitment to lone-parent families, climate change, education, people with disabilities, addiction support services, and home care, which have suffered from years of austerity-era cuts.
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, leader of the Civil Engagement Group, said, “the cost of not investing in proper supports for lone parent families means that they are more likely to live in deprivation, they are more likely to be homeless, and their children are three times more likely to live in consistent poverty. We need to gender- and equality-proof this budget to ensure these families are flourishing and not struggling.”
Speaking on the cost of not investing in tackling climate change, Senator Grace O’Sullivan said, “We have a choice: we can continue to sit back as the weather gets more extreme and sea levels rise, all the while facing EU fines of €150 to €600 million euro, or we can invest now in a new, green economy.”
“The cost of not investing in education,” Senator Lynn Ruane said, “jeopardises future prospects and further compounds the cycle of poverty. Investing early in a child’s life means we can have better stability, growth, health outcomes. It is an investment in society as a whole, not just the individual.”
Addressing the cost of not investing in people with disabilities and their families, Senator John Dolan said, “employment, community access, housing, income support, transport et cetera are the investments that are needed for people with disabilities. €250 million would be a good start, and we will all gain.”
Senator Frances Black said, “We must invest in real addiction support services, if we don’t the long term effects are huge. Alcohol harm alone costs the state €2.3 billion every year. We need to invest now to break this cycle.”
“The State spends €1 billion on residential care for people with dementia who would be much better served, and much more cost effectively, by home care,” said Senator Colette Kelleher, “it is expensive care, and it is care that people don’t need or want, and there is a better way. A down payment of €100 million would be a wise investment by government in home care.”