Commenting on the latest figures from the back to ‘School Costs Survey 2016’ issued by the children’s charity Barnardos, Michael Lowry TD has said that the findings reflect what he is hearing from his constituents, that parents are struggling financially to pay for their children’s back to school needs despite so-called ‘free education’.
“This 11th annual ‘School Costs Survey’ highlights that many parents both locally and nationally are under severe pressure at this time of year, dreading how they will pay for all that is required for school.
The findings of the survey highlight that the overall cost of sending a child to primary school is €340 and to post primary school is €775. These estimates don’t even include the money needed by parents to pay for transport, extra-curricular activities, school bags and other accessories. These kinds of expenses are placing enormous stress on families who are already under pressure to pay everyday family costs and household bills. Parents in difficulty are facing awful dilemmas of having to forego home rental and mortgage payments or even borrowing to make ends meet. If education in Ireland is free, why are parents footing these huge bills?
With Budget 2017 approaching it is time for the Government to recognise that parents and schools alike are still straining under the weight of funding cuts. Austerity measures which resulted in cuts to social welfare rates, such as the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance being halved, negatively impacts upon parents’ abilities to fund the most basic requirements needed for their children. It must be remembered that these cuts come despite back to school costs remaining high or even increasing.
I welcome the proposed measures by our present government in relation to investing an extra €500m in education by 2021 and reviewing the School Transport Scheme with recommendations on concessionary school transport. More action is needed to implement measures that will effectively support struggling parents and put a halt to the dread they feel at the back to school time of year. Further investment needs to be prioritised to fund schools and support initiatives that will realistically and significantly reduce costs to parents” concluded Deputy Lowry.
Independent TD Michael Lowry has welcomed the recent added financial investment to our health sector, including the €40m announced for home care services. Same comes as part of the extra €500 million which has been added to our already overall Health Service Budget nationally for 2016, by Minister for Health Mr Simon Harris.
However Lowry warned, “Despite this new welcome allocation, serious challenges still continue to remain within the service, with demands for home help and home care packages continuing to grow.”
In particular Lowry pointed out, “Patients who are medically ready for hospital discharge continue to remain waiting in much needed hospital beds, due to our inability to access and put in place home supports.”
“More access to home supports” stated Lowry, “could see patients living at home; instead of remaining in long-term residential care, should these appropriate services be made more readily available. This said problems are also arising in the number of older people already in receipt of home care, who have been identified as not receiving the number of help hours needed.
“It is readily acknowledged that many more patients could be at home”, continued Lowry, “where they themselves want to be; where their families want them to be; and where Government policy says they should be. However we are simply not providing these necessary homecare supports and this present situation goes completely against Governmental stated objectives of caring for individuals within our communities.
In particular over the past number of years Health Care in its entirety across Tipperary has faced utter devastation through serious financial cuts, e.g South Tipp General Hospital, Our Lady’s hospital Cashel, Dean Maxwell Roscrea, Mount Sion Tipperary, the effects of which can only be described as terrifying and a gross burden on our most vulnerable. To this end I will now be seeking an assurance from Minister Harris that a fair share of this much needed new funding will be made available to Co. Tipperary.
This new investment in our community care services is indeed a most positive development, however we now need to put in place a system that provides for more appropriate homecare services and packages. This will enable many more of our citizens to return to live in their own homes under a more tailored care plan, which in turn will be one step closer to solving our current hospital overcrowding”, concluded Lowry.
Independent TD Michael Lowry has called on the Ulster Bank to reverse its decision to sell more than 900 distressed loans to ‘vulture funds’, in their efforts to rid themselves of acquired problem assets, mostly obtained during the so called boom era.
“This sale of assets by Ulster Bank, valued at €2.5bn, is made up of distressed business loans, buy-to-let mortgages and owner-occupier mortgages. Their decision is aimed at drastically eradicating all remaining so called ‘toxic’ property loans from its books on both sides of the border. However if carried out there exists a further fear that other banking establishments will most likely replicate similar procedures against their customers.
About €100m of the total face value of Ulster Bank loans, now being offered for sale, are owned by farmers and in many cases are linked to necessary on-farm business investments. This threat now comes at a time when Irish agriculture, in particular, is already on its knees with farm debt on an upward spiral, due to world market price volatility, which looks set to remain for the foreseeable future.
This threatened outcome by Ulster Bank is an appalling and insensitive approach to vulnerable business mortgage holders, who are currently finding themselves in financial difficulties. On a daily basis, I am confronted with appalling instances of financial institutions being allowed to ignore their own wrong-doings, while trampling and terrorising Irish borrowers.
This devastating threat, if carried through, will bring about the most negative and damaging of effects to families, overall business development in our regional communities and more especially will decimate attempts at any real rural recovery. If Ulster Bank mortgages are sold off to these ‘vulture funds’, then we will witness further new and increased cases of homelessness and a continuance in the escalation of private rental costs.
I now urge all banking establishments to develop new long-term funding arrangements and to immediately suspend their present threatening action. The vast majority of customers are keen to find a resolution to their current financial difficulties and should be given professional, independent advice on restructuring their outstanding loans. I also call for a renewed sense of urgency by the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure, to assist in creating a more efficient funding mechanism to halt and reverse this recent banking decision” concluded Deputy Lowry.
Michael Lowry TD welcomes the decision by Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney, in cancelling plans to introduce a mandatory minimum pay-by-weight charge for Green Bin waste.
The charge had been part of a new nationwide pay-by-weight system and was due to come into force as and from July 1st, 2016. These minimum charges had been specified at 11c per kg for black bin waste, 6c for brown bin and 2c for green bin.
Michael Lowry stated “It made no logical sense to apply a charge by weight to a recycling bin. While regional waste authorities have predicted that landfill waste could be reduced by up to 25%, I believe that this 25% reduction would undoubtedly have contributed to even more illegal dumping on our rural roadsides and an even greater reduction in proper recycling.
Already problems regarding the cleaning up of illegal dumps are costing Tipperary County Council vast sums of money and are also greatly hampering the efforts of the many voluntary Tidy Towns and other groups in the county. WEEE Ireland’s recent visit to Thurles & Templemore gave an opportunity to bring along old redundant electrical appliances for recycling thus eliminating the temptation to dump illegally in our scenic countryside.
Anything that discourages recycling is unsound and even greater attempts to recycle needs to be further encouraged. If recycling is to succeed it needs to be free to all communities. I am delighted that the Government have fully recognised that introducing such proposed charges would have had a total detrimental effect on householders penalising them for disposing their waste responsibly. I now look forward to further positive support from all waste operators across the country”, concluded Deputy Lowry.
FEAD program 2014-2020 for the most deprived persons in Europe
What is FEAD?
The Department of Social Protection is the designated managing authority for the Operational Programme (OP) for the Fund for the Economic Aid (FEAD) to the most deprived who will have responsibility for the implementation of the programme in Ireland.
Who will FEAD be targeted at?
FEAD support will help people take their first steps out of poverty and social exclusion. The FEAD will help the most deprived people by addressing one of their most basic needs i.e. food and non-food for personal use e.g. sleeping bags, shampoo and other items for personal use, which is a precondition for them to be able to get a job or follow a training course.
What resources are available?
FEAD Ireland will be funded by some €22m of European funding and €4m of Irish exchequer funding totaling some 26.7m for the period 2014-2020.
Sixty-five per cent (65%) of available resources will be applied to the provision of food and thirty five per cent (35%) to the provision of basic material assistance e.g. sleeping bags, personal need items such as shampoo, shower gel etc.
Accompanying measures funding will also be available to a maximum of 5% of the value of food or non-food items purchased.
How will FEAD work?
The Department will establish an open selection mechanism in a fair, transparent and equitable manner for the provision of funding from the OP to partner organisations to provide food and /or basic material assistance for homeless persons. This will allow the organisations to purchase food and basic material essential non-food items and will then organise the distribution of food/non-food directly to people or transfer the food/non-food products to other not-for-profit organisations working with the target groups.
The criteria will consist of the following elements:
- organisations status, governance structures and legal/recognisable form
- expertise in the provision of food and/or basic material assistance
- capacity to target, deliver services to and support persons who are most severely deprived
- track record in the provision of services to persons who are most deprived
- organisational policies in respect of equality, non-discrimination, care of vulnerable people, accessibility, and inclusion
- ability to record and provide necessary data for monitoring/evaluation
- administrative, operational and management capacity
- financial standing and ability to manage public funds
- integration with other publicly funded programmes (to avoid duplication of support from other publicly funded programmes)
- geographical coverage.
Focus of OP
The focus of the fund will be on those on the margins of society and in need of essential supports. Effectively, the OP will target
- homeless persons including long-term rough sleepers
- children in low income/work intensity households
- victims of domestic violence in refuges and shelters
- person suffering or recovering from addictions
- certain members of the Roma and Traveller communities
- vulnerable persons transitioning to independent living from emergency accommodation, institutionalized care settings or places of detention
- any person without income, accommodation or means not otherwise defined above.