“Our Voices Are Real, Our Stories Are Real – We Need To Be Listened To”

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Wednesday’s Social Inclusion Forum Is A Rare Chance for Government to Hear the Voices of People Experiencing Poverty and Social Exclusion

Speaking in advance of the Social Inclusion Forum on Wednesday 4th November, Anna Visser Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland, welcomed the Government efforts to actively seek out the views of people experiencing poverty and social exclusion in the context of economic and social policy making. The Social Inclusion Forum was established by the Government to evaluate Ireland’s National Action Plan for Social Inclusion and to facilitate positive interactions between policy-makers, people experiencing poverty and social exclusion, and their organisations.

“A society that stimulates and facilitates robust and inclusive public debate is a healthy and confident society; appreciative of the role of civic participation and sure of its democratic credentials. International best practice proves that the participation in policy formulation of people who experience the issues on a first hand basis ensures effective, fair and sustainable policy. Our current economic predicament is too serious to exclude the opinions and voices of people on the front line of Ireland’s social crisis,” said Ms. Visser.

EAPN Ireland believes that it is incumbent on politicians and policy makers to ensure that opportunities like the Social Inclusion Forum are not seen as mere window-dressing. The views, opinions and proposals of people experiencing poverty and social exclusion must be listened to and should form part of the Government’s planning for Budget 2010.

Every year, EAPN Ireland works with the Irish delegation to the European Meetings of People Experiencing Poverty, organised by the EU Presidency in Brussels. The meetings are part of the European Union’s social inclusion agenda and seek out the views of people experiencing issues of poverty, inequality and social exclusion. Karen Fitzpatrick is a single parent from Dublin and was part of the 2009 delegation. Karen will make a presentation to the Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin TD, policy makers and NGOs at Wednesday’s Social Inclusion Forum.

“When asked to attend the 8th meeting of People Experiencing Poverty in Brussels earlier this year I asked the question – Why me? At the time I didn’t understand what someone like me – a single parent on social welfare could possibly bring to such a meeting. At the meeting and workshops I had the honour of joining 131 other delegates from 28 EU countries to present the realities of our experiences within our own countries, both positive and negative, and present possible solutions to the issues we discussed,” said Ms. Fitzpatrick.

“Even though I am working at present, and continuing my education I still find my family caught in a poverty trap. All I want is to complete the transition from welfare to work – to build a career, become financially independent of social welfare payments and hopefully provide my children with the opportunities they deserve;

It is less than two months to Christmas and I don’t have the Christmas Bonus to fall back on as it has already been cut. I am very concerned about the proposed 20% cut in child benefit and the impact it will have on the necessities my family depend on. How much worse can it really get? I’m looking forward to the opportunity to share my experience of being a single parent in Ireland. I hope what I have to say may lead to positive change with regard to single parents in receipt of social welfare payments. Our voices are real, our stories are real – we need to be listened to. Poverty and social exclusion is not just my problem, it’s our problem and hopefully if we work together we can make real progress, said Ms. Fitzpatrick.”

The themes for discussion at this year’s Forum reflect the four cross cutting themes outlined in the Irish national programme for the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2010, namely Child Poverty, Access to Quality Work and Learning Opportunities, Access to Services for Older People and Access to Services for People with Disabilities.


One Response

  1. Robert McCann

    November 4, 2009 1:08 pm

    News reports and the government (+ their spin doctors) often say that ‘the governemnt is borrowing an amount equivivalant to say, 10 percent of gross domestic product’. But what does this actually mean to the ordinary person going about their everday lives.

    Well it means that the Irish government is borrowing (according to The Financial Times October31st/Nov1st) £71 for every person in the country.

    Yes we are top of the table… above even Iceland which is borrowing £51 for every person in their country and they are in effect being administered by the IMF (International Monetary Fund)

    And the table of borrowing comparisons goes like this.

    Ireland £71
    Anglo-Saxon Freemarket Ideology

    US £58
    Anggo-Saxon Freemarket Ideology

    UK £56
    Anglo-Saxon Freemarket Ideology

    Iceland £51
    ‘suckers’…they tried the free-market and it bankrupeted them…

    Spain £34
    ‘property bubble’…or ‘property porn/Eire’

    Japan £38
    ‘Capitalism…..and strange work practices ‘

    France £35
    ‘Well Sarkozy flirted with free-market’

    Italy £22
    ‘Berlusconi…corruption/right wing’

    Belgium £24

    Canada £23
    ‘social welfare model/quality of life’

    Germany £18
    ‘Angela Merkel/german schdenfreude…

    Sweden £17
    ‘social welfare model/quality of life’

    Switzerland £11
    ‘rich people who want to avoid paying tax and so therfore no need to exploit the blood sweat and tears of ordinary folk’.

    So the abiove provides a clear illustration of the perilous state the the country is in and the reasons why we got there.

    Also we rarely hear our politicians comparing us with countries like Sweden, now we know why. They know the truth…we are in effect bankrupt as a result of Bertie Aherne, the existing cabinet and indeed the political elite of this country. Poor Joe Higgins was a lone voice in a socialist wilderness.

    Also the mainstream media in this country have been complicit in perpetrating this social fraud against the ordinary folk of Ireland. We could’nt help but be seduced by the pages upon pages and the telvision shows full of ‘property pornography’…and now it is the ‘morning after’ and we are left feeling guilty and confused.

    The personal stories above are heartfelt and moving. And we in Ireland are in for a hard sad journey over the next few years…and it is the German position on the table above that is the most interesting.

    A year ago they where in deep trouble. However they resisted the Irish the UK and the US models of recovery. They acted quickly to support people in work, which maintained peoples confidence.
    They shored up and strengthend their social welfare model rather than slash and burn it as our government intend doing, and they collected taxes from those most able to pay thier fair share…

    If we in Ireland expect the Germans to feel sorry for us well look up ‘schadenfreude’.

    And you know what… I dont blame them, I just hope that they show a little mercy.