On May 10th, 2018, One Family attended the annual Social Inclusion Forum (SIF) in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. The theme of the Forum was Social Inclusion in a Changing Environment.
The SIF was established by Government, and convened by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP), as part of the national structures to monitor and evaluate Ireland’s National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (NAPinclusion).
This event was the principal forum for wide public consultation and discussion on social inclusion. It provides an opportunity for engagement between officials, community and voluntary organisations, and most importantly, people experiencing poverty in relation to policy.
The theme for this year’s Forum focussed on how national social inclusion and development issues interact with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals
The Forum ran a number of Workshops
- Tools for Change: How Does the Public Sector Duty Relate to Poverty and Social Inclusion Policies?
- Strengthening the Voice of the Social Inclusion Forum: What Role Should the Social Inclusion Forum Play in the New National Action Plan for Social Inclusion?
- Equality Proofing Public Expenditure: Lessons for Poverty Proofing
- Childcare Policies: Supporting Participation and Early Childhood Development
- Community Work at Local Level: Its Contribution to Understanding and Responding to Poverty and Social Exclusion
One Family participated in the “Tools For Change” workshop which looked at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Act 2014 (IHREC). In this Act, in Section 42 (Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty) , all public bodies in Ireland have a legal responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of their employees, customers, service users and everyone affected by their policies and plans. The discussion and debate during the workshop opened up issues relevant to lone parent families.
One Family pointed out that this legal duty in the public sector needs to be fully implemented and enforced. It would support the rights of both public sector workers themselves and clients engaging with public services. In particular, there is a need to ensure that proper training and support for staff in human rights and equality issues is not carried out in a vacuum. Pilot programmes with IHREC which have actively included front-line workers and clients in detailed consultations in the public services show great enhancement of those services. They make the work-service provision environment better for all. One Family has repeatedly called for training, information and support for Intreo case-workers in order to understand the realities of lone parent families, to be fully knowledgeable about all services and supports available. Without an whole-of-government, fully integrated wraparound supports and services, lone parents will continue to experience routs to education and work as an obstacle course.
The Forum closed with a robust session on how the UN Sustainable Development Goals intersect with our national social inclusion and poverty reduction targets and strategies. Participants spoke strongly against using any measures or interventions which would re-prioritise already established anti-poverty goals, targets or strategies. Participants rejected measures which do not align explicitly with those already established. Lowering or moving poverty-reduction targets caused by political decisions during the recession, for example the cuts of Budget 2012, are not a coherent strategy. If the cuts born so heavily by lone parents from the 2012 Budget onwards were made by reason of a ‘recession’, by the same token, increases should be made in 2018 in a rising economy. Throughout the day the lives and realities of lone parent families, along with other disadvantaged groups, were raised consistently from various quarters.