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.
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