Groups rally behind Combat Poverty

TWENTY-SEVEN voluntary and community groups have rallied to the defence of the Combat Poverty Agency which is waiting to hear its fate after a ministerial review recommended it be scrapped as a cost-cutting measure.

The organisations, under the umbrella of the Community Platform, have urged Minister for Social Affairs Mary Hanafin to reject the recommendation that she subsume elements of the independent agency into the Office for Social Inclusion in her own department.

The platform, which includes groups such as Age Action, the Simon Community, Threshold and the National Women’s Council, says any diminution of Combat Poverty’s status would impact negatively on hundreds of thousands of people.

“Despite the economic boom of recent years, there are currently 300,000 people in Ireland living in consistent poverty,” said platform spokes-woman, Anne Costello.

She said the platform was extremely concerned about the potential loss of a strong independent voice to challenge Government policy and action. “The Agency has a proven track record of providing impartial and evidence-based analysis on poverty-related issues and developing solutions,” she said.

“To subsume the agency into the Office for Social Inclusion now would make a mockery of its status as an independent and authoritative voice.”

The board of Combat Poverty met in emergency talks on Thursday and said it had come up with alternatives which it had forwarded to the minister.

The Department of Social Affairs said the minister was considering the recommendations made to her.

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