Russell Brand on the Irish Water Charges

You may know Russell Brand for his celebrity antics, but more recently his Youtube show Trews has been gaining a following for its outspoken, humorous and yet critical look at economic and civil issues in the UK.  In this video however, Russell Brand looks outside of the UK and provides an overview of just some of the reasons that people in Ireland have been resisting a governmental plan to charge denizens for their water usage.

I should state that this author personally believes in water rates and metering to charge according to usage, with appropriate discounts for those in need of State assistance – but only within a healthy and transparent infrastructure. Following accusations of government corruption involving the state-created utility company Irish Water, the meter installation contractor Siteserv and businessman Denis O’Brien for whom such accusations are not new, it’s difficult to consider any joint venture between these entities to be healthy or transparent.

In addition, there is reason to believe that water supply costs are currently being met indirectly through other taxation and that the average household cost estimated by Irish Water is significantly far from accurate. Other issues raised include wasteful and/or unethical expenditure of finance and fears that the utility company may later be privatized and sold for profit, leaving the Irish citizens with little or no control over their own water resources.

Unless and until all of these issues can be resolved and the indirect charge that householders currently pay through higher taxation, as well as the water rates already paid by businesses, are abolished to avoid an otherwise inevitable double payment for the supply and service, this author will remain opposed to Irish Water and meter installation in Ireland.

Placing persons with disabilities at-risk of poverty

Absolute poverty refers to the inability to acquire vital means for survival, such as food, water, shelter and a minimum standard of sanitation. Relative poverty is an economic inequality calculated within the context of the society in which a person lives. It is usually given as a percentage of the average income for that society.

In the EU, a person whose income is below 60% of the median income (midpoint between lowest and highest) for their country of residence is said to be “at-risk-of poverty”. Whether or not they will experience (relative) poverty will depend on a number of factors such as the just how far below that 60% threshold they are, possession of assets, if any and of course, how long they’ve been at risk of poverty.

“Generally people who have been below an “at-risk-of poverty” line for several years are likely to be in a more extreme situation than those who are only in such a situation for a short time.”  – European Anti-Poverty Network

In addition, the EAPN highlight implications and aspects of poverty that go beyond a mere financial statement, such as indebtedness, inadequate housing and poor living conditions, ill-health, educational disadvantage and unemployment etc. Many of these things are enough to put someone into poverty, but they are also the effects of being there.

With all that in mind, let’s consider Ireland, a country with whose at-risk of poverty population is roughly in line with EU averages. To be at-risk of poverty in 2011, a single person’s annual income after tax would need to be lower than €10,889 (to see exactly what goes into this calculation see MoneyGuideIreland.com).

Like most developed countries, Ireland provides a disability payment to those whose disability prevents them from working. Following a means test, the maximum weekly amount for a single adult receiving Disability Allowance in Ireland is €188.00 giving an annual total of €9,776.00

This is the same amount provided to an unemployed single adult over the age of 26, in a means tested payment called Jobseeker’s Allowance. That payment is not intended to be sustainable in the long-term.

Low but financially viable payments to the temporarily unemployed are designed to provide incentive towards finding employment. While persons whose disability has been found to prevent them from working, have no means of improving their situation by finding employment, they must remain at-risk of poverty.

And at this point I must repeat myself, or rather, I reiterate the EAPN:

“Generally people who have been below an “at-risk-of poverty” line for several years are likely to be in a more extreme situation than those who are only in such a situation for a short time.”  – European Anti-Poverty Network

I want to add that Ireland is not alone in this, I am quite sure that this problem exists elsewhere in the world.

Public awareness of these situations is often quite low as people are not always willing to talk openly about their finances, some may not wish to discuss their disability in-depth and public attitudes to people on social benefits have not always been kind. In particular, people with invisible disabilities (something I will be posting about soon) face a lot of harsh criticism from outsiders who know very little about their disability.