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Budget not enough to ‘protect basic rights’

A wide-ranging survey of civil society organisations published this Thursday indicates that while Budget 2015 may have offered some positive measures for various social groups, it does not go far enough to restore or protect basic rights downgraded over several years of austerity.

Despite the increases in welfare rates and payments, organisations working in areas right across society – social welfare, minorities, health, children, LGBT, women, disabled persons, education and older people – saw either no change or a reduction in accessibility to rights from Budget 2015, according to FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres).

The survey was conducted by FLAC and its PILA project on some 39 organisations across all areas of society in the aftermath of Budget 2015.

“These results show that groups do recognise that some efforts were bring made by Government, but it is interesting to note that there was no sense of elation or even cautious optimism across the 39 participating bodies. Most felt there was no profound improvement for their target groups, and in some cases they were quite negative,” said FLAC director general, Noeline Blackwell.

They were concerned about pressure on services and felt all of society would suffer from heightened levels of inequality that had emerged over the past years.

“This finding in particular will cause concern for Government as it seeks to bring about a social recovery as well as an economic renewal,” commented Ms Blackwell.

Some highlights include:

* The majority (65%) believe the human rights of the people they
support have been downgraded, with a smaller number (16%) saying there
was no change. About a tenth say there was an improvement in rights.

* 20 out of 26 organisations felt their client or target group
would either see no change or a reduction in the affordability of core
rights. This was particularly the case in housing, social welfare and
disability.

* Roughly a similar number (24 out of 29) saw access to their
right unchanged or reduced. There was a limited increase in
accessibility for housing, social welfare, health, children and
education but this was vastly outstripped by reports of inadequate
access.

* Three-quarters of those surveyed felt their sector did not
receive an adequate allocation in Budget 2015.

* Groups participating in the survey almost split down the
middle on whether the rights of their target group have been respected
and promoted by the State, with almost half saying they had to a small
extent and a slightly lower number saying not at all.

* About 15% or organisations surveyed said a minimum core of the
right in question was protected.

* Half of organisations felt they had been given ample
opportunities to feed into government decision-making on budget, while
the other half did not; as to whether their inputs had been reflected in
decision-making, most bodies said they could only discern a small
impression or none at all.

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