Charities call on Government to heed Pope Francis’ call for solidarity in budget submissions

Charities call on Government to heed Pope Francis’ call for solidarity in budget submissions Caoimhe De Barra

Covid-19 looms large in pre-Budget 2021 submissions, as Irish charities stress the need to support people on the margins at home and abroad.

Budget 2021 will be released on Tuesday, October 13, with charities calling for health, housing and climate change to be the priorities.

A number of the charities said that Covid-19 has exacerbated inequalities and that any planned recovery must include provisions for those worst affected.

Trócaire, the official charity of the Irish Catholic bishops, has called on the Government to maintain its commitment to Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).

Solidarity

Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra said that “global solidarity through overseas aid is more vital now than ever” due to the global crisis, and asked the Irish Government to heed the call of Fratelli Tutti, the Pope’s recent encyclical.

“Pope Francis urges us to allow the Covid-19 tragedy to become the moment we remember that we are a global community where one person’s problems are the problems of all,” Ms de Barra said. “The Government must recognise this in Budget 2021 by protecting Ireland’s overseas aid budget so as organisations like Trócaire can continue to save and change lives around the world.”

The submission identifies three key areas on which it believes the Government should focus:

1 – Maintain existing levels of investment in Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) expenditure in Budget 2021 and work towards achieving the UN target of 0.7% of GNI in ODA through the development of a multi-annual plan.

2 – Continue to uphold Irish Aid’s longstanding reputation for excellence as a humanitarian partner, with high quality, poverty-reduction focused, untied aid, including civil society as a key partner.

3 – Meet Ireland’s international commitments to climate justice by increasing allocations to climate finance in addition to increases in overall ODA.

Housing

Focusing on matters in Ireland, the national housing and homeless charity Peter McVerry Trust called on the Government to ensure that housing and other support needs of the vulnerable are prioritised.

They put a particular emphasis on improving mental health facilities to take account of the impact of Covid-19, especially as a means of ensuring students are not excluded from schools.

The main areas the charity asks the Government to focus on are:

1 – Continuing the growth of the national Housing First programme through increasing targets by 25% over the next three years.

2 – Delivering more one bedroom units to cater for the many single people who are homeless.

3 – Increase levels of funding for the Repair and Leasing Scheme, from €40,000 to €60,000 per unit and reducing VAT on building projects aimed at bringing empty buildings back into use for social housing.

Focus Ireland has also called on the Government to invest in social housing delivery to protect the most vulnerable from homelessness and to help kick-start the country’s economic recovery from Covid-19 by creating jobs in construction and many other related sectors.

Focus Ireland Advocacy Director Mike Allen said:  “Covid-19 has turned life as we know it upside down…in repairing the damage done, there are significant opportunities to effect meaningful structural changes and address some of the hitherto seemingly insurmountable obstacles to a fair, inclusive society.”