We would like to take this opportunity to update you on the SVP’s Social Justice work for 2018, to thank you for your essential contribution to this work, and to welcome new members to the Network. The SVP National Social Justice Committee and the Social Justice and Policy staff team worked on a wide range of areas during 2018. We supported SVP members with complex cases, presented at SVP Area Gatherings and assisted in the drafting of best practice and guidance notes for SVP members.
We published new research entitled Stories of Struggle, which highlights the reality of living on a low income and the impact that this has on families with children. Our animation demonstrates the pervasive impact of poverty and the solutions which Government needs to implement to break the cycle of poverty that so many of the people we assist are trapped in.
We presented the experience of SVP members helping with education costs at the Joint Committee on Education and Skills and we made our proposals for Budget 2019 to the Joint Committee on Social Protection. We supported the proposed introduction of a cap on the interest rates charged by moneylenders and we discussed the issues facing people who are struggling with debt and high cost credit at the Debt Advice Stakeholder Forum in Brussels. We also highlighted the increases in energy bills over the year and the unfair additional costs facing households using Pay As You Go meters for electricity and gas. And we continue to advocate on behalf of homeless families and those in insecure and poor quality rented accommodation.
We achieved some successes in 2018 with the increases in social welfare rates and the Direct Provision allowance for asylum seekers, the increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, the higher Qualified Child Increase for older children and the small but welcome increase in the funding for schools announced in Budget 2019.
But much more remains to be done. The priority areas we will focus on for 2019-2020 include advocating for the increased provision of social housing to tackle homelessness and housing need, improvements in the Housing Assistance Payment and supports for those in mortgage arrears. We will aim to address the high cost of school particularly at second level and to see better supports for non-traditional students at third level and in further education. We will also advocate for measures to tackle high energy costs, child poverty, poor quality accommodation, debt and low income.
We need your support and assistance to carry out our social justice work. The Social Justice Network is a vital source of information about the experience of members on the ground and the needs of the people we assist. It is an opportunity for you to raise the social justice issues that you encounter in your visitation work - educational disadvantage, homelessness, lack of access to secure housing, energy poverty etc - so that we can develop solutions and advocate for the changes required to create a more just and caring society, as we are called to do in our mission statement. We will be in touch again in the New Year, but in the meantime please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need our help.
Thank you for your support over the past year. We look forward to working with you in 2019.
Kieran Stafford, National President
Caroline Fahey, Head of Social Justice and Policy