Merger risks poverty agency’s independence, warn charities
Resource type: News
Irish Independent |
Subsuming the Combat Poverty Agency into a government department would destroy the watchdog’s independence and ability to carry out vital work, claimed a number of leading charities and community groups yesterday. The future of the state-funded body hangs in the balance as Social Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin decides whether to incorporate it into her department. Some charity groups have said that such a move would wipe out the agency’s role in providing independent researchcrucial for the elimination of poverty. The groups include Barnardos, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), Cork Simon, Galway Simon, Mental Health Ireland and the Respond! Housing Association. Norah Gibbons, Barnardos director of advocacy, said Combat Poverty’s work on researching and highlighting child poverty contributed significantly to the work of the charity. “It is vital that Combat Poverty is able to continue to look critically at issues relating to poverty in an independent and objective manner,” she added . Anna Visser, director of EAPN Ireland, said it would be the country’s most at-risk who will be affected by any changes to the role of the agency. “In an economic downturn, it is the people experiencing poverty who are most affected, it will be the vulnerable members of Irish society who will suffer by any move to weaken the functions and independence of the CPA.” It is understood a review of the agency has recommended a merger with the Office for Social Inclusion, which is based in the Department of Social and Family Affairs. But agency chiefs have said they would fight any such move. Father Pat Cogan, chief executive officer of Respond! Housing Association, said the agency had played a vital role in highlighting poverty levels in Ireland. “More than 300,000 of our citizens live in consistent poverty, with 700,000 at risk of poverty,” he said.