Budget 2017 must be fair and improve the lives of those who have been left behind
21 July 2016
Today, legal rights group FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) called on the State to ensure that human rights are a primary consideration in all budget related decisions.
In its 2017 pre-budget submission to the Department of Social Protection, FLAC welcomed the commitment in the new Programme for a Partnership Government to equality and gender proof budget proposals. However, FLAC urged the Government to take this pledge one step further by adopting a human rights based approach to budgeting. This call has been echoed by a number of independent human rights bodies, and most recently by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
FLAC Legal & Policy Officer Ciarán Finlay said, “such a framework would ensure that budgetary decisions adhere to objective human rights standards set down in international law. A human rights based approach would also require government departments, including the Department of Social Protection, to meaningfully consult with those who are likely to be impacted by proposed budgetary measures. In short, it would result in a process that is fairer and more transparent.”
FLAC also made a series of other recommendations designed to improve the situation of different groups negatively impacted by austerity measures. In particular, FLAC recommended that cuts to social welfare for young people under the age of 26 be reversed.
According to Mr. Finlay, “these cuts were introduced as a general measure, without regard for the different needs of young people. In the midst of the current housing crisis, FLAC is especially concerned that these age-related social welfare cuts have increased the vulnerability of people under the age of 26 to homelessness, particularly those who are already disadvantaged and without family supports.”
Furthermore, FLAC called for the situation of asylum seekers to be addressed in Budget 2017.
“A number of human rights bodies, including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, have voiced concerns regarding restrictions asylum seekers face in accessing social security benefits. Pending further reform of the system, the Government should increase the Direct Provision allowance to €38.74 for adults and to €29.80 for children in line with the recommendations of the McMahon report as a matter of priority”, added Mr. Finlay.
The full submission is available below.
- FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. FLAC is an NGO that relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
- FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250) and free legal advice through its network of 80 volunteer legal advice centres – more at www.flac.ie/help/. It also campaigns on a range of issues including consumer credit, personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
- FLAC’s submission for Budget 2017 is at http://www.flac.ie/publications/flac-prebudget-2017-submission/
- The recommendations from the submission are:
- Recommendation 1: Review the adequacy of existing rates of social welfare payments in order to guarantee a basic level of income and an adequate standard of living for everyone.
- Recommendation 2: Ensure that austerity measures are gradually phased out.
- Recommendation 3: Ensure that all budgetary proposals advanced by the Department of Social Protection are human rights and equality proofed.
- Recommendation 4: Human rights and equality impact assessments should include a meaningful and effective consultation with people experiencing poverty or groups who are likely to be impacted by proposed budgetary measures.
- Recommendation 5: Restore a targeted use of the Mortgage Interest Supplement payment to assist people with a short-term mortgage arrears problem due to temporary illness or unemployment through their financial difficulties.
- Recommendation 6: Reverse the cuts to social welfare payments to young people under the age of 26.
- Recommendation 7: Ensure that Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payments reflect actual housing costs and meet people’s basic housing needs.
- Recommendation 8: Establish an anonymous, searchable database of appeals decisions, including appeals related to the Habitual Residence Condition.
- Recommendation 9: Provide adequate resources to the Social Welfare Appeals Office in order to further improve efficiencies in processing times.
- Recommendation 10: Invest greater resources in training and monitoring of decision-makers at first instance.
- Recommendation 11: Place the Social Welfare Appeals Office on a statutorily independent footing.
- Recommendation 12: Continue to progress the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Person or Number? 2 report.
- Recommendation 13: Ensure when recovering social welfare overpayments that a person’s income is not reduced below a figure which would have a negative impact on their fundamental rights to an adequate standard of living and social security.
- Recommendation 14: Review the Habitual Residence Condition so as to eliminate its discriminatory impact on access to social security benefits, particularly among vulnerable and marginalised individuals and groups.
- Recommendation 15: Pending further reform of the system, increase the weekly allowance for asylum seekers living in Direct Provision to €38.74 for adults and to €29.80 for children in line with the recommendations.