Need for social count as well as money count for a workable budget

26 September 2013

Today’s report from the Fiscal Advisory Council on the Irish government’s balance sheet is billed as a ‘comprehensive overview’ of where Ireland stands financially after the financial crisis of recent years. This review of the national economy’s assets and liabilities issues ahead of Budget 2014 and will be used to inform government as it finalises its budget plans.

However FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) today argues that this information only presents a partial picture to budget decision- makers. In particular, the legal rights charity highlights the absence of any available analysis of the social capital and the social burdens on the State at this time.

“We worry that there will be a pure numbers-driven focus in this budget to the exclusion of other equally important issues, like how much pressure people are already carrying and what they can actually afford to take on,” said FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell.

“The government does not seem to have any analysis of the impact that the years of recession have had, particularly on those who are most vulnerable in our society.  If a budget is to be truly realistic and viable, it has to take into account the need for this society to have basic standards where people can live in dignity. This budget cannot just be about looking good on paper to the accountants and economists of the Troika?”

Ms Blackwell likened the process to the new insolvency system – an insolvency practitioner ascertains a realistic level of repayments for a debtor to present to a creditor, using minimum income guidelines, so that it will be truly feasible for the debtor to honour the agreement to the end.

“We need to make sure all the elements of the ‘budget triangle’ are in place,” concluded Ms Blackwell. “The physical assets and liabilities as produced today, the social capital and strain on our society and the country’s  income and expenditure.”



Editors’ notes:

  1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
  2. We offer basic legal information through our telephone information line and free legal advice through a network of 80 volunteer evening advice centres. FLAC also campaigns on a range of issues including personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
  3. You will find more on FLAC’s work on reforming debt and credit law in Ireland at
  4. FLAC’s pre-budget submission 2014 is at