The 2014 Budget delivered yet another round of harsh penalties to the most vulnerable in our society. The elderly had their telephone allowance cut, families have been hit with a cut to the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance, and in a country with a youth unemployment rate in excess of 30 per cent, young people were unfairly subjected to a wave of attacks.
The first of these was the slashing of the Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) to €100 per week for new claimants under 25 and current claimants under the age of 22. A cut like this to the already reduced JSA puts an impossible pressure on unemployed young people to survive and makes it increasingly difficult to justify staying in Ireland and trying to find work.
For an example of what this means in the real world, just take a look at the average cost of renting a room in Dublin city which is €90/week. Even for those in receipt of rent supplement, the amount left for basic living costs is still very low, such a low amount that young people will be forced into conditions of poverty.
Before entering Government, Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn publicly signed a pledge not to increase the Student Contribution fee, however as part of his sustained attack on third-level education, he has broken this pledge for the third consecutive time.
It is very disappointing that at a time when we need to be investing in education, this Government is continuing to attack both the students who want to receive a third-level education and the third-level institutions themselves that are now being pushed to their limits with cut after cut.
Finally, I think it’s important to draw attention to the fact that half way through their term, this Government has further displayed their contempt for young people by still not coming up with a solid plan for tackling the youth unemployment crisis. In fact, Budget 2014 contained a €6 million cut to the JobBridge Internship Scheme and with a cut to the capital budget of the Department of Jobs and Enterprise, both the operations of the IDA and Enterprise Ireland will be affected.
The only conclusion that I can draw from this budget is that Fine Gael and Labour want to send out a clear message to the young people of Ireland that emigration is the only viable option available for them to build a life.
Ruaidhrí Moran is Chairperson of DCU Fianna Fáil.