Protection of vulnerable the focus of pre-budget campaign

The Time to Make a Commitment campaign was launched in Dublin yesterday by a coalition of leading charities, trade unions, community and voluntary groups.

The campaign, organised by the Poor Can't Pay coalition, calls for the government to protect people on the lowest incomes from further cuts in the budget. Members of the campaign include The National Women's Council of Ireland, Age Action Ireland and St Vincent de Paul (SVP).

A series of two short video campaigns were screened at the launch explaining the terrible impact any cutbacks would have on those earning the minimum wage or living on social welfare (see videos below).

The videos tell the stories of the homeless, elderly, disabled and unemployed and were sent to every TD and Senator yesterday morning. They aim to highlight to politicians that the lower earners in society should not bear the brunt of cutbacks.

John Mark McCafferty, SVP said that people with the lowest incomes were "walking on a knife edge" and they were appealing that budget 2011 not further the damage done by previous budgets.

The short films are the "bleak reminder of the effects further cuts have on vulnerable in society", said Director of the National Women's Council, Susan McKay.

Ms McKay said women are more at risk of poverty than men. With an increase in poverty comes an increase in domestic violence she said, noting that women's services have seen an increase of 40% in demand.

"These short videos give a human face to the problems", said Ms McKay.

Speaking at the launch, Noel Nutley, an Age Action member said that while the UK government helped the elderly through last year's harsh winter with a heating subsidy, Minister John Gormley introduced a carbon tax.

"That carbon tax increase cost me €45 extra for my oil last winter. The government needs to make sure that older people's social welfare payments are protected", said Mr Nutley.

The Poor Can't Pay coalition is urging every TD to pledge their support and commit to spare the exposed in society to further cuts. To date the online campaign has already seen cross party support from 14% of TDs. The alliance is urging the public to lobby their local representative to support this campaign.

Ms McKay said: "We have a State bank guarantee. We have the Croke Park agreement. It is now time to insist that we also need guarantees for the most vulnerable."

Meanwhile it has emerged that the government will seek to save €5bn in expenditure cuts and taxes in Budget 2011. This figure is far greater than was previously estimated by Finance minister Brian Lenihan. Announcing Budget 2010 last year, Lenihan stated that €7.5bn in cuts would be sought in the next three budgets. It now appears that this will be much higher in order to meet the EU imposed target of 3% budget deficit by 2014.

Additional reporting by Malachy Browne