Brown envelope for a fairer welfare system

NEXT month the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) will launch its brown envelope campaign as part of its national social welfare reform strategy, which places demands on the Government to reform the social welfare system.

The system, which is based on a ‘male breadwinner’ model, reinforces the notion of women as adult dependents, rather than as individuals entitled to payments in their own right.

The system fails to give adequate recognition to women’s unpaid caring work. The consequences of this failure are the higher-than-average risks of poverty experienced by certain categories of women who are, or have been, engaged in caring work for long periods of time, especially lone parents and older women.

The launch of the Brown Envelope Campaign in May will see women from all over Ireland travel to Dublin to hand-deliver thousands of letters, signed by individuals from all over the country, to Brian Cowen at the Department of Finance. The letters outline the changes that are urgently required.

The campaign is calling for a reformed social welfare system that will promote women’s economic independence - treating women as independent adults so they have direct access to social welfare payments such as pensions; recognising unpaid care work as ‘work’; supporting and enabling part-time work, and recognising diverse work patterns.

The Brown Envelope Campaign is grounded in the very real experiences of our grandmothers, mothers, sisters and daughters in accessing social welfare payments.

The NWCI is calling on individuals and organisations around the country to join the campaign and gather signatures (contact NWCI on 01-8787248). People can sign the letter online on We need as much support as possible to highlight these issues - the more signatures we gather, the greater our chance will be of making an impact.

This is an opportunity for individuals, community and voluntary groups to join us - with one voice - to highlight these issues and finally to bring about real and positive change to a system that is unjust, unequal and in urgent need of reform.

Joanna McMinn



Ciara O’Shea

Communications and Development Officer


9 Marlborough Court

Marlborough Street

Dublin 1

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

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