Forget tax cuts, what we need is funding in Budget - charities
The Government should prioritise funding for the community and voluntary sector in the Budget as services for the disabled, carers and young people are at "breaking point".
That's according to a group representing six national networks and 1,700 Irish charities which is calling on the Government to dedicate two-thirds of the funds in the upcoming Budget to the restoration of social services and supports that have been hit by years of austerity measures.
The group is comprised of The Wheel, the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), Care Alliance Ireland, Irish Rural Link, Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups and the National Youth Council of Ireland.
They believe that the spend for their sector has "remained static after years of cuts", despite the fact that the economy has "steadily" grown over the last year.
According to The Wheel - a support and representative body connecting community and voluntary organisations and charities - a third of charities have been forced to cut back or suspend services during the year, while 72pc claim they have experienced a rising demand for their services during the same period.
Ivan Cooper, director of advocacy with The Wheel, believes that instead of offering tax cuts, the money should be reinvested in the community and voluntary services sector.
"Ireland's community and voluntary sector has been subjected to disproportionate funding cuts since 2008, and the cumulative impact of these cuts is now being felt in every community," Mr Cooper said.
"The Minister for Finance has indicated that there is a €1.5bn available in Budget 2016, which the Government intends to divide evenly between tax and expenditure measures.
"We call on Government to invest two-thirds of available funds to restore budgets for social services.
"We are saying it's only fair, because the services expenditures side of the annual Budget took the big part of the hit over the last eight years."
John Dolan, the chief executive officer of the DFI, said the Budget must "begin an ambitious campaign to redress this continuing unfairness".
Lorraine Cooke is visually impaired and she believes the restoration of funding in this area is also an equality issue.
The 27-year-old has been living independently in Dublin for more than 18 months and she currently does voluntary work.
However, she would like to gain access to full-time employment and contribute to society.
She believes there needs to be more incentives in place for employers to hire people with disabilities.
"There needs to be more investment. It will make us feel more equal in society," the Galway native said.
"We want to be treated equally in society. We are not looking for charity," she added.