Belfast Telegraph

Budget cuts 'hit most vulnerable'

Swingeing budget cuts have unfairly affected the most vulnerable in society and were not ordered by bailout masters, a rights watchdog has warned.

In a report for the United Nations, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) warned the stark choices taken by the Government over the last seven years fall far short of basic standards in international law.

Chief commissioner Emily Logan highlighted the pain felt by disabled people following the country's bankruptcy.

"The impact of a seven-year austerity drive has been enormous and the burden of the crisis and of dominant policy responses to it has fallen disproportionately on those least able to bear its impacts," she said.

"We know that people with disabilities have a higher cost of living, and a much higher rate of unemployment, almost trebling from 8% to 22% during the recession."

Ms Logan said the Government has a choice to base a budget on human rights and equality standards.

The findings were in a report for the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ahead of the Government being grilled at a meeting in Geneva next Monday and Tuesday over its record in fulfilling rights in health, education, social security, an adequate standard of living and fair working conditions.

Ms Logan raised the concerns over maternity care standards in the country, particularly the findings against Portlaoise hospital, and said there is a pressing need for medics to protect human dignity.

The IHREC produced statistics in its report that found poverty rates, food poverty and homelessness, in particular family homelessness, have increased since the economic collapse hit.

Ms Logan said the State is being called to account over why groups already susceptible to poverty or inequality were particularly affected in the recession.

Among the issues the commission identified are significant growth in youth unemployment and the growth of gender inequality in pay, jobs and affordable childcare and the retention of article 41.2 of the Constitution, w hich states the woman's place is in the home.

It highlighted higher unemployment rates for immigrants, criticised the treatment of asylum seekers and called on the Government to do more to identify trafficking victims and racism levels.

It said asylum seekers should only be housed in direct provision for six to nine months and after that people waiting for refugee status should be allowed to live independently, access social welfare and work.

Families should not be housed in direct provision, the commission said.

On benefits cuts, the watchdog noted a trade union report which found sanctions on social welfare, such as suspension of payments, increased tenfold from 2011 to 2014.

It called for a transparent and accountable system for stopping benefits and regular reviews to ensure they are not causing increased poverty.

The commission said reform of domestic violence laws must be prioritised.

On homelessness, it said the Government should do more to address the lack of affordable housing as more families are left with no permanent home and rising rents and house prices.

The commission said there is a lack of culturally appropriate housing for travellers while it also found traveller children and those with special needs are over-represented in schools in disadvantaged areas.

It warned about the demand for mental health care for young people is not being met and while less children are being treated in adult psychiatric units the practice persists.


From Belfast Telegraph