Survey indicates Budget 2015 will not restore “downgraded” rights

16 October 2014

A wide-ranging survey of civil society organisations published today indicates that while Budget 2015 may have offered some positive measures for various social groups, it does not go far enough to restore or protect basic rights downgraded over several years of austerity.

Legal rights group FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is hosting a post-budget forum in Dublin this morning, where civil society organisations are responding to Budget 2015 in terms of how it impacts on the people they work with, using a human rights framework.

Despite the increases in welfare rates and payments, organisations working in areas right across society - social welfare, minorities, health, children, LGBT, women, disabled persons, education and older people - saw either no change or a reduction in accessibility to rights from Budget 2015.

The survey was conducted by FLAC and its PILA project on some 39 organisations across all areas of society in the aftermath of Budget 2015. “These results show that groups do recognise that some efforts were bring made by government, but it is interesting to note that there was no sense of elation or even cautious optimism across the 39 participating bodies. Most felt there was no profound improvement for their target groups, and in some cases they were quite negative,” said FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell.

The impact of serial austerity budgets was clear, with most organisations feeling that rights of people in their target group have been downgraded.

They were concerned about pressure on services and felt all of society would suffer from heightened levels of inequality that had emerged over the past years. “This finding in particular will cause concern for Government as it seeks to bring about a social recovery as well as an economic renewal,” commented Ms Blackwell.

Some highlights include:

  • The majority (65%) believe the human rights of the people they support have been downgraded, with a smaller number (16%) saying there was no change. About a tenth say there was an improvement in rights.
  • 20 out of 26 organisations felt their client or target group would either see no change or a reduction in the affordability of core rights. This was particularly the case in housing, social welfare and disability.
  • Roughly a similar number (24 out of 29) saw access to their right unchanged or reduced. There was a limited increase in accessibility for housing, social welfare, health, children and education but this was vastly outstripped by reports of inadequate access.
  • Three-quarters of those surveyed felt their sector did not receive an adequate allocation in Budget 2015.
  • Groups participating in the survey almost split down the middle on whether the rights of their target group have been respected and promoted by the State, with almost half saying they had to a small extent and a slightly lower number saying not at all.
  • About 15% or organisations surveyed said a minimum core of the right in question was protected.
  • Half of organisations felt they had been given ample opportunities to feed into government decision-making on budget, while the other half did not; as to whether their inputs had been reflected in decision-making, most bodies said they could only discern a small impression or none at all.

 “What is clear from the survey is that accessibility, affordability and adequacy of rights have not been sufficiently considered in Budget 2015,” said FLAC Policy & Advocacy Officer Yvonne O’Sullivan.

“The recession and austerity measures had a devastating impact on the public service infrastructure on which many of these groups here today rely. It will take a profound and long-term re-investment to restore this infrastructure to a standard that meets even basic human rights requirements. If the state were to apply human rights analysis to budgeting decisions – pre-assessing how a measure may impact on people’s basic rights – it will go a long way to assisting in that process,” concluded Ms O’Sullivan.

 The organisations participating in the survey were almost unanimous in calling for the state to adopt a human rights approach to budgeting.