Cuts will condemn families to poverty, say campaigners
Drastic cuts will condemn families on the breadline to a life of poverty, hunger and homelessness, charities and campaigners claimed tonight.
Children's rights activist Norah Gibbons claimed cuts on the poorest who survive on low incomes and social welfare will result in many children going without one full meal every week.
"Minister, you have added to the misery of children and poor families," said Ms Gibbons, of Barnardos.
Measures outlined in the scathing Budget 2011 include cutting child benefit by €10 a month for the first and second child, with an additional cut of €10 for a third child.
Social welfare will also be slashed by 4pc, around €8 on an average €196 a week payment.
Ms Gibbons criticised Mr Lenihan for ignoring recent statistics which revealed the number of children living in consistent poverty had risen to almost 92,000 last year.
"We know that will have risen again," she continued.
"That is enough children to fill the Aviva Stadium twice over. Child benefit was the one thing that was there to take children out of consistent poverty."
Barnardos has warned in the last few months that the numbers of children going hungry and without essentials like heat and nappies will rise as a result of cuts to child benefit.
John Monaghan, of the St Vincent de Paul charity, said the Budget will cause real hardship for the families on its books.
"We've seen an increase in calls for help in some places by 50pc last year," he said.
"Many more people are going to be in poverty and if politicians or economists believe increasing poverty is the pathway to prosperity they are at the very least seriously deluded."
Mr Monaghan revealed the charity last year spend €6m helping disadvantaged families with energy bills and another €7.6m on food.
"Before today many, many people were suffering in this country and there's absolutely one thing we can be certain of, unfortunately, that even more people will have to come to St Vincent de Paul after this and even more people will end up in poverty and that is really extremely sad," he added.
Homeless charity Focus Ireland warned the cuts will force more people to live on the streets.
Chief executive Joyce Loughnan said: "The Government and opposition parties must realise this road makes no sense as these funding cuts - and the continued lack of provision of housing - will mean that people who are ready to move on from being homeless will be forced to remain in expensive emergency accommodation."
Susan McKay, National Women's Council chief executive, said: "With little support from the government, women made a huge contribution to Ireland's economic growth.
"Even the IMF recognised that women are needed for Ireland's recovery.
"This budget ignores that fact. It is bad for women, bad for children, bad for the economy."