Thursday, May 28, 2009

'Below The Radar' Cuts

When the you-know-the-what hit the fan last year and cuts of every shape and size were on the horizon, the Government gave one committment: the Social Inclusion budget would not be touched. Well although there have been no 'announcements' to the contrary, there certainly have been cuts. Cuts across every measure from education for disadvantaged communities to youth projects to community groups, to home helps, to partnership companies.

I have met elderly people who have been 'visited' by HSE staff enquiring as to whether they 'have any family living in the area' - only to be written to a week later informing them they have had there homecare hours cut in half!

I am on the Board of Management of a local primary school which is a DEIS school (classified as disadvantaged) which is having to fight not to lose a teacher - because the rules have been changed and because the goal posts are being shifted. It is a disgrace.

I Chair Waterford Area Partnership which has as its sole aim to tackle social exclusion and we have just been informed of our second budgetary cut this year. A cut that will now have to be made in just six months - it being almost June, thereby doubling the impact on the budget. The cut is 3.5% for the year (on top of a 10% cut already!!) but because we have only been informed half way through the year, we will have to cut 7% now to make the additional cut in just 6 months.

I also Chair Wateford Youth Committee - and all the youth groups funded through the committee are suffering cuts.

None of these cuts are announced. You can still see the statements from the 'TeeDee' in the local papers welcoming the funding - conveniently omitting that it has been cut.

These cuts are all deep. They are all targetted at those people who most need intervention. Trying to break the cycle and support children and their families who are most at need. They are all happening 'below the radar'.
But there's still money for spin-doctors to sell us the Lisbon Treaty. There's still money for first-class travel for Ministers. There's still money for make-up and hair-do's. AND There's still €4 billion for Anglo Irish Bank.
What is going on? Have we lost the plot altogether? Why wasn't Anglo Irish Bank allowed to collapse - just as Lehman Brothers did? It's not like it's a high-street bank and judging by what I'm reading it seems to have had the vast majority of its lending tied up in a relatively small number of very big developers.
Something is rotten in this State. And it's called 'croneyism'. We don't know the half of it. Ties between the State, the Banks, the Regulators, the boardroom boys and even the media (national - not local). We don't know who is married to whose sister, or who drinks with whom, or who is scratching whose back. But it is going on and most of them are tied into it one way or another.
Somehow I don't think those people are 'suffering' in the same way as those at the bottom of the ladder. Those who, when the tide was lifting all boats, were anchored to the bottom! Those with mental health issues, or dysfunctional families, or learning diffculties, or who need help to stay living at home or those who are plain old poor. They're still with us you know - despite the PR spin to the contrary. Just ask the Society of St. Vincent de Paul who are trying to pick up the pieces.
These cuts are dishonest. They are sneaky and in the long term they will cost all of society. But you won't see the Government sending out Press Releases telling you that.
It's time we all decided whats important in Ireland: is it our society - our children, our elderly, our huddled masses. Or is it our economy?

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