Belfast Telegraph

Groups reveal threats to funding

Nine out of 10 community groups claim lobbying for government action to reduce poverty is tougher than ever.

Another 40% of organisations said they have experienced threats to funding, or have had concerns about money since the start of the economic crisis.

Some 170 community and voluntary groups replied to the on-line questionnaire for the Advocacy Initiative, a three-year project that promotes social justice work in Ireland Anna Visser, director, said ignoring or closing down social justice advocates would cost everyone more in the long run.

"Social justice advocacy is more important than ever in the age of austerity because it provides policy makers with insights into the human cost of balancing books," she said. "Research has shown that unequal societies are inherently less stable for everyone.

"There's more crime, more illness, more stress, more people who have to be supported by the state so more cost in the long run. If social justice advocates are ignored or silenced this is where we're heading fast."

Many of Ireland's leading NGOs are to attend the Advocacy Initiative's first Knowledge Exchange Forum, to be opened by President of Ireland Michael D Higgins.

It will explore how social justice advocacy can survive during austerity and how the NGO sector can compete with well resourced vested interests so that government policy is weighted towards the needs of Ireland's poor and disadvantaged.

The 17 member steering committee of the Advocacy Initiative includes organisations like The Society of St Vincent de Paul, Focus Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society.

Ms Visser said the forum is a show of solidarity between organisations working for more equality and fairness. "We want the Government to engage with us to seriously address the needs of Ireland's growing levels of poverty," she added.

"Instead of throwing in the towel in the face of economic adversity, we are looking at how we can work together and work smarter to compete against special interests which may have held court before."

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